Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 31.75" x 50.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 6.5" x 135.5" (unfurled)
Commission pennants are the distinguishing mark of a commissioned U.S. Navy ship. Flown at the topmast, the typical American format is a long blue field, usually with a single row of white stars, although sometimes with their total divided into two rows, followed by two long stripes, red-over-white. A ship became commissioned when this pennant was hoisted. Flown during both times of peace and war, the only time the pennant is not flown is if a flag officer or civilian official was aboard and replaced it with their own flag.

Commissioning pennants were once very important in their role as signals and thus needed to be seen from great distance. During the 18th and 19th centuries, some reached as long as a hundred feet. Sometime around 1910, the function of commission pennants leaned away from identification and more toward ceremony and custom. By WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-18) most ranged between just four and six feet in length. Today the largest examples measure two-and-a-half inches by six feet.

Early on, commission pennants had a number of stars equal to that on the national flag. As more and more states joined the Union, however, it became impractical to use the full complement of stars, especially on smaller examples. During the mid-late 19th century, many substituted 13 stars for the full count, to reflect the original colonies. This mirrored the star count used by the Navy on most of the Stars & Stripes flags that it flew on small craft. "U.S. Navy small boat ensigns," as they are called, most often had 13 stars.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the smallest commission pennants sometimes displayed just 7 stars. Following WWI, all seem to have shared the 7 star count. According to the U.S. Navy, the reason for the choice of 7 stars was not recorded.

Like many of the 10 - 30 ft. examples that are encountered in this period, the pennant displays 13 stars in a single row. The first 3 of these are slightly larger than the rest. Although the purpose of the larger stars is unknown, the same condition is often encountered on most 7 star examples of the 20th century.

Measuring around 11 feet in length, this pennant was made sometime between the 1890's and WWI. The canton and stripes are made of wool bunting. The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliqu├ęd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag, machine stitch. There is a canvas binding along the hoist, inside which a small rod was inserted and stitched into place, to increase stability and strength. There is a single brass grommet in the center of the binding. All of the stitching was done by machine.

While commission pennants and jacks were the most basic of Naval signals (beyond the national flag), they were also displayed by yachtsmen, many of whom followed Navy practices, as well as Hudson River Steamships, which often flew a plethora of visually interesting flags, more for dress than for practical 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 fabric is 100% cotton twill, black in color. Three-dimensional folds were added in the stripes and a shadowbox was created to accommodate the mount. The substantial, black-painted and hand-gilded molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is minor mothing throughout, becoming slightly more pronounced toward the fly end. The colors are exceptionally strong and the overall presentation is excellent.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1896
Latest Date of Origin: 1918
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1898 Spanish American War
Price: SOLD

Views: 570