Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 42.25" x 56.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 30.5" x 45.25"
13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. They were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the centennial of American independence in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians while campaigning for the same reason.

As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit their full complement on a small flag. The stars would, by necessity, have to become smaller, which made it more and more difficult to view them from a distance as individual objects. The fear was that too many of them close together would become as one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas. Keeping the count low allowed for better visibility. For this reason the U.S. Navy flew 13 star flags on small boats. Some private ship owners mirrored this practice and flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy.

Flag experts disagree about the precisely when the Navy began to revert to 13 stars and other low counts. Some feel that the use of 13 star flags never stopped, which seems to be supported by depictions of ships in period artwork. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states. Any American flag that has previously been official remains so according to the flag acts, so it remains perfectly acceptable to fly 13 star flags today by way of congressional law.

Around 1890, commercial flag-makers began making small pieced-and-sewn flags for the first time in quantity, most often in lengths of 3 or 4 feet on the fly. For these they almost universally employed the 13 star count, mirroring Navy tradition. Measuring approximately 2.5 feet on the hoist by 4 feet on the fly, this particular flag is one such example. The practice of using 13 stars on many of the smallest sewn flags seems to have remained popular through the 1920's, and while custom flags have continuously been available, regular production of 13 star examples afterwards declined.

Since there was no official star configuration until the 20th century (1912 specifically, beginning with the 48 star count), the stars on 13 star flags may appear in any one of a host of configurations. Some of these are more rare and desirable than others. The stars of this particular flag are arranged in a circular wreath of 12 with a larger star in the very center. This basic configuration, whether oval or circular, has come to be known as the "3rd Maryland Pattern". The design is very desirable due to both its visual attractiveness and the scarcity of its use. The name comes from a flag that resides at the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis, long thought to have been present with General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781. According to legend, the flag was supposed to have been carried by Color Sergeant William Batchelor of the Maryland Light Infantry and was donated to the State of Maryland by Batchelor's descendants. The story was disproved in the 1970's, however, following an examination by the late flag expert Grace Rogers Cooper of the Smithsonian. She discovered that the Cowpens flag was, at the earliest, of Mexican War vintage (1846-48).

Among flag collectors and enthusiasts, the name "3rd Maryland" stuck to the design. The term actually received some legitimacy through the existence of a similar flag, in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History & Technology, with verified Maryland provenance. This was carried by the Maryland and District of Columbia Battalion of Volunteers during the Mexican War. While the configuration is known to be an early one, as evidenced by 18th century illustrations, this star pattern is most often encountered among surviving examples that date to the mid-19th century, roughly within the Mexican War to Civil War time frame (1846-1865). It was also revived in these small-scale, commercially-produced flags of the 1890-1920's. Based on my long experience with this type of flag, I would suggest that this particular example probably dates no later than about 1910.

13 star flags of this era with stars in the 3rd Maryland pattern are very scarce. Approximately seventy percent of such flags have stars arranged in a staggered row design, in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, while approximately twenty-five percent appear in a medallion configuration that features a center star, surrounded by a wreath of stars, with a flanking star in each corner of the canton. Fewer than five percent appear in some other design, such as this one. The more unusual star patterns tend to appear on flags that were probably produced in the 1890's or shortly thereafter.

The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting, pieced by machine. The cotton stars are machine-sewn with a zigzag stitch and double-appliquéd (applied to both sides of the flag). There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two brass grommets. A black stencil along the hoist reads "4 x 2 1/2" to indicate its size in feet. The name "O'Laughlin" is inscribed near the bottom of the hoist binding on the obverse (front) with a dip pen, preceded by what is probably an initial "C," or perhaps "G". This would represent the name of a former owner and it was common to mark flags in this manner during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Further markings appears in the extreme upper hoist-end corner, surrounding the grommet. The first two characters appear to be an "E" or a "G," and a "T," followed by two more characters that are obscured by fabric loss. On the opposite side of the grommet is at least one more character, obscured by bleeding of the ink.

Note how the configuration of stars is not centered within the blue canton, but instead set nearer to the top and towards the hoist end. This adds an interesting visual feature to the design. When combined with the beauty of the star configuration itself, the small and desirable size of the flag, its strong colors and attractive proportions, the overall result is a wonderful example of the period.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to inquire for more details.

Condition: There is minor mothing throughout and minor wear from use. There are stitched repairs along the hoist end at the top and bottom of the flag where the canton and striped field were separated from the binding as a result of obvious use. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind the flag during the mounting process for masking purposes. There is minor foxing and staining and there is minor bleeding of the red pigment into the white stripes. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1910
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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