Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 35.5" x 48.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 23.5" x 36.5"
13 star flag of the type made from roughly the last decade of the 19th century through the first quarter of the 20th. The stars are arranged in a medallion configuration, with a single, center star and four flanking corner stars. Most 13-star flags of this period have a less-desirable, staggered row design with stars arranged in counts of 3-2-3-2-3. Medallion patterns, like this one, seem to comprise about 20% of such flags that were produced during this era.

The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with machine stitching. The cotton stars were double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag machine stitch. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with 2 brass grommets, along which the name "Tautog" was inscribed on the obverse, near the bottom.

While it was common during the 19th and early 20th centuries to mark flags in this manner to indicate ownership, a Tautog is a type of fish, as opposed to a surname. This would be the name of a boat. While the flag has no known specific history, this name belonged to a boat that was rather famous during the precise time when this flag was most likely made. Built by George S. Lawley & Sons of Neponset, Massachusetts in 1896, Tautog was an 18-foot dory, owned by attorney George Gardiner Fry of New York, which he captained at yacht races. In the year 1906, he won 13 of the challenges he participated in with the Tautog, and finished second 8 times. Among other racing endeavors, in 1908 he took the boat to Holland, where he won every rare he competed in and brought back an international trophy. It is very likely that this flag was used on this yacht by Fry in the exact period when the Tautog was dominating these events.

The flag is accompanied by a large contingent of pages from a scrapbook kept by Fry and written in his own hand. This material was acquired separately from the flag, discovered while searching for related documentation of the boat and its owner. While the flag itself is not pictured in any of the included images, there are many of the yacht. Dating between 1905 and 1908, there are family pictures and related notations, but the primary intent of the "book" was to document the Tautog and its achievements.

Why 13 Stars? 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 stars would become one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on its small-scale flags for precisely this reason. 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.

For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3 to 4 feet in length before the 1890's. There are exceptions to this rule, but until this time, the smallest sewn flags were approximately 6 feet on the fly. The primary use had long been more utilitarian than decorative, and flags needed to be large to be effective as signals. But private use grew with the passage of time, which led to the need for long-term use flags of more manageable scale.

Beginning around 1890, flag-makers began to produce smaller flags for the first time in large quantities, typically measuring either 2 x 3 feet (like this example) or 2.5 x 4 feet. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, they chose the 13 star count rather than the full complement of stars, for sake of ease and visibility. Any flag that has previously been official, remains so according to the flag acts, so even today 13 star flags remain official national flags of the United States of America.

The 13 star count has been used throughout our nation's history for a variety of other purposes. 13 star flags were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the nation's centennial in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926, as well as for annual celebrations of Independence Day. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty, and were used by 19th century politicians in political campaigning. The use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding a fouled anchor, which allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs between 1848 and 1980, persists today without an official purpose.

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 cove-shaped molding has a textured surface, a rope style inner lip. and a very dark brown, nearly black surface with reddish highlights and overtones. To this a silver molding with a flat profile was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: Excellent among wool flags of this period. There is extremely minor mothing in limited areas and there is moderate oxidation and soiling in the hoist binding and stars. There is also a tiny bit of separation of the flag from the binding, at the bottom. This would have occurred from use. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1895
Latest Date of Origin: 1926
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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