Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 80.5" x 114"
Flag Size (H x L): 68.5" x 102"
Entirely hand-sewn, 33 star, American national flag with exceptional graphic features. Chief among these are its stars and the luminous cotton chintz fabric on which they are sewn.

The stars are arranged in what is known as the "Great Star" or "Great Luminary" pattern, which is comprised of one large star made out of smaller ones. I have often referred to the Great Star configuration as sort-of the “Rolls Royce” of the geometric designs. Coveted by collectors, it probably came about shortly before 1818, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 Naval hero, help to create a new design that would become a distinctive feature of the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Reid became Harbor Master of New York following the war. During his lifetime, he created many innovations in signal use, including a system that could actually send messages from New York to New Orleans by sea in just two hours.

Recognition of the flag on the open seas was a primary concern of ship captains. Reid’s concept of placing all the stars in a star-shaped configuration would have kept the constellation in roughly the same format as the number of states grew. As more and more stars were added, this would insure a distinct design that could be quickly identified. Though his proposal was rejected by President Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in this manner, the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it. Its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven its desirability among collectors.

The glazed blue fabric is not only beautiful, but represents a trait seldom encountered in early examples. In addition to its striking color, the sheen of the glazing adds a keen visual element and is particularly desired among connoisseurs of antique textiles. Most early flags are sewn of cloth with a distinctly utilitarian function, as opposed to a decorative one.

Great Star patterns take on many forms. Canted sharply to one side, note how the arms of the star are inaccurately placed, which results in a crude, yet especially endearing, presentation with plenty of folk quality. This is just the kind of display that flag enthusiasts desire, which lends great appeal to this wonderful early example.

The 33rd state, Oregon, entered the Union on February 14th, 1859. The 33 star flag was official from 1859-1861, and was thus still the official flag when Ft. Sumter was fired upon, on April 12th of that year. This event marked the beginning of the Civil War and a 33 star flag was flying at Ft. Sumter during the attack. Because the 34th state, Kansas, had already acquired statehood on January 29th, 1861, flag makers knew that the 34 star flag would soon become official. For this reason, 33 star flags were not produced in great quantity for the war, which would last until 1865, and the 33 can be considered to be more of a pre-Civil War flag than a war-period flag. This is one reason why 33 star flags are far-and-away more scarce than their 34 and 35-star counterparts.

Flags made prior to the Civil War comprise less than one percent of 19th century flags that have survived into the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. Private use of the national flag rose swiftly during the patriotism that accompanied the Civil War, then exploded in 1876.

Even the military did not use the flag in a manner that most people might think. The primary purpose before the Civil War was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark some garrisons, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment and a Federal standard. Most people would be surprised to learn that the infantry wasn’t authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until 1837. Even then it was neither required nor customary. The Mexican War was the first that followed, but it was not until the Civil War took place that most U.S. ground forces carried the national flag.

In summary, this is a tremendous example of the Antebellum and Civil War era, pre-dating most flags that survive today that from the 19th century, with one of the most desirable of all star patterns, great fabric and colors, and plenty of whimsical folk appeal.

Construction: The stars of the flag are made of plain weave cotton, hand-sewn, and double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). The canton is made of blue cotton chintz and retains its original glazing. The stripes are made of plain weave cotton. These are pieced and joined with treadle stitching. There is a hand-sewn, twill cotton binding along the hoist, with 4 hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommets.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained 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 acrylic.

Condition: There is minor foxing and staining throughout. There is a tiny tear in the bottom center of the canton. There are minor tears and losses throughout the striped field. There is an old patched repair in the 6th red stripe, toward the fly end, and an L-shaped tear near the hoist end of the last red stripe. Also in the last red stripe there is a significant lateral tear with associated loss that spans about 2/3 of its length. There are some small bleached areas/spots in the canton. The striped field was turned back and hemmed during its course of use as a proper means of repair.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 33
Earliest Date of Origin: 1859
Latest Date of Origin: 1861
State/Affiliation: Oregon
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD

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