Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 32" x 50.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 21.25" x 40"
Made around the time of the American Civil War (1861-65), this American national flag has 13 stars arranged in a 4-5-4 pattern. Made of polished cotton, its hand-sewn stars have irregular and particularly whimsical profiles. These are oriented in various directions on their vertical axis, which only exacerbates their visual impact.

The blue canton is made of wool with a shade of blue approaching seafoam green/grey. The stripes are made of either merino wool or a wool and cotton blended fabric. Their color and weave are not common in Civil War period flags, which tends to support an 1861 or prior date. Note the rich persimmon hue of red-orange that contrasts beautifully with the canton. Pre-war examples tend to employ fabrics that are not frequently encountered once the presence of war drove demand and production. This is a homemade flag and this particular red is something I have encountered occasionally on some interesting, homemade examples that immediately pre-date the war.

The stars of the flag are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). Like the stars, the remainder of the flag is constructed mostly by hand-stitching, although there is some use of a treadle machine. 11 of the 12 seams were pieced with a row of hand-stitching, then finished with a row of treadle stitching. The seam running between the canton and the 4th white stripe was entirely hand-sewn, as-is the continuing seam between the 4th red and the 4th white stripes. The vertical seam between the canton and the first 7 stripes was sewn entirely by hand and the lower edge of the 13th stripe was bound by hand. There is a plain weave cotton sleeve binds the hoist, that was applied with treadle stitching. Through this a length of braided hemp rope was threaded and stitched into place by hand, with a knotted loop at the top.

The small scale of the flag itself is very desirable. Prior to the last decade of the 19th century, most flags made for extended outdoor use were very large. Those with pieced-and-sewn construction were generally eight feet long and larger. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals. Today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism.

Smaller flags exist in the early periods, but they are the exception. A six-foot flag was considered small and, in general, the smallest flags used by the U.S. Navy were six feet in length. The smaller they get, the more unusual they are. Those measuring four-feet and less on the fly, like this one, are tiny among flags with sewn construction that pre-date the 1890's. Because 19th century sewn flags can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting, many collectors prefer those of considerably smaller scale, such as this one.

The 4-5-4 lineal configuration is both scarcer and more appealing than rows of stars in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, and is generally seen on navy flags made during the Civil War period and prior. For some reason the 4-5-4 pattern was not popular during the celebration of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence in 1876, or thereafter, so it is of greater interest and more desired by collectors than some other 13 star designs. Since there was no official star pattern for the American national flag set forth in the flag act of June 14th, 1777, and because the original does not survive, nor are descriptions of it recorded in public documents or private journals, no one actually knows what the very first one looked like. Due to its apparent popularity in early America, however, as evidenced by both drawings and surviving 19th century examples, more than one flag expert has hedged that lineal rows of 4-5-4 was perhaps the original configuration. This arrangement appears once again on small, commercially produced flags of the 1890’s, but surviving examples are very scarce and thus most flags in the 4-5-4 pattern date to the early periods in flag manufacture.

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 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. The U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats until 1916, 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.

Due to its desirable star pattern, a Civil War-era date, interesting fabrics, good color, graphics, and small size, this particular flag is a fine example of the period.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support on every seam and throughout the star field. It was then stitched to a background of 100% cotton, 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 then placed in a black-painted Italian molding with a flat face and a very deep profile, to which a rippled profile molding, black with gold highlights, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1858
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD

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