Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 61.5" x 73.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 49" x 61.25"
This private yacht ensign was probably made in the period between the end of the Civil War and the last decade of the 19th century, which makes it earlier than most of the examples in this form that surface in the antiques marketplace. The flag's most interesting and desirable trait lies in its hand-sewn stars and anchor, as well as in the manner in which they were applied. These elements are single-appliqued, meaning that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star and the anchor, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that they would be visible on both sides of the flag. While some flag enthusiasts have pointed to this construction method as a way of conserving fabric, others suggest that the real purpose was to make the flag lighter in weight. I believe it to have been more oriented toward the conservation of materials. Whatever the case may be, I always find single-appliqued stars more intriguing because they are more visually interesting and because, when executed properly, they serve as evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitchery.

The flag was made by the Annin Company in New York and is signed along the hoist by means of a black stencil. In operation as early as the 1830's, and incorporated in 1847, Annin is the oldest U.S. flag maker that is still in business today. While the company made thousands of flags during the 19th century, surprisingly few examples exist from that era. Annin was one of the only commercial flag-makers that was still hand-sewing stars in the mid-1890's and afterward, possibly as late as 1910, when almost all flag-makers were sewing stars by machine. Further, the manner in which they applied them, by single applique, is a trait more common to flags made during the Civil War period (1861-65) and earlier, than it is to flags made post-war. By the 1890's the method was practically archaic in the flag-making trade. The stencil used to mark the name and size tends to be a trait seen on 19th century Annin-made flags, replaced at some point by machine-embroidered tags.

The medallion configuration, 13-star, 13-stripe flag with a fouled anchor in the center was entered into official use in 1848, following an act of Congress that made it the official signal for U.S. pleasure sailing vessels. The need for such a flag arose with the popularity of boating as a pastime for well-to-do Americans, and as a competitive sport, in addition to its longstanding utilitarian role as a vehicle of trade. In early America, all boats were subject to customs searches at every port. Without modern income tax, the federal government derived its revenues mostly from tariffs, so an accounting of foreign goods on ships was a critical venture. As yachting for pleasure became more prevalent, however, more and more time was spent searching boats that had no such inventory, wasting time for both customs officials and wealthy ship owners.

John Cox Stevens, a former president of the Jockey Club and future founder of the Union League Club, became the New York Yacht Club's Commodore upon its founding in 1845. In 1847 he approached the secretary of the treasury and suggested that something be done to streamline the customs process for non-trade vessels. In 1848 legislation passed Congress requiring registration of these boats, which could then fly the "American Yachting Signal" to bypass customs. In the 1980's the 1848 legislation was revoked, but the use of flags in this design continues to this day.

13 star flags have been used throughout our Nation's history for a variety of purposes. In addition to their use on private yachts, the U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats until 1916 (without an anchor), because it was easier to discern fewer stars at a distance on a small flag. Commercial flag-makers mirrored this practice and some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy. 13 star flags were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette's visit in 1825-26, the celebration of the nation's centennial 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 in political campaigning for the same reason.

Construction: The stars and anchor are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and single-appliqued. The canton and stripes are made of wool bunting, joined with treadle stitching. There is a canvas sailcloth binding along the hoist with two brass grommets.

Mounting: The flag has been stitched to 100% natural fabrics for support on every seam and throughout the star field. Fabrics of similar coloration were used to ghost out minor holes and losses. The flag was hand-stitched to its background, which is 100% cotton twill, black in color, which was washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding with a substantial ogee profile. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglas.

Condition: The flag was shortened during its lifespan as a proper means to extend its term of use. The fly end has been re-bound with two rows of hand-stitching. There are a few small stains. There is minor mothing, mostly toward the fly end, accompanied by an area of moderate mothing in the extreme upper hoist-end corner of the canton. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1875
Latest Date of Origin: 1895
State/Affiliation: New York
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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