Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 49" x 34.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 37.5" x 23"
31 star American national flag, printed on plain weave cotton, with a medallion configuration of stars. This consists of a large center star, surrounded by two consecutive wreaths of smaller stars, with a slightly larger flanking star in each corner of the canton. California became the 31st state in 1850, ushered in on the heels of the 1849 Gold Rush.

Note how the center star isn’t solid, but is silhouetted by a white line that flag collectors have termed a “halo”. The bold style of this star places it among the most beautiful found in 19th century designs. Although the name of the company that produced these flags with a haloed center star is not known, they appear to have made them in five other star counts, including 30, 34, 35, 36 and 42. Two varieties, likely from different makers, also exist with 13 stars. One dates to 1856 and was made for the presidential campaign of James Buchanan. Another dates to the 1876 centennial and all of its 13 stars have halos. Because printed parade flags did not exist before the 26-star era (1837-1845), and because few private individuals flew the Stars & Stripes before the Civil War (1861-1865), this particular maker would have been among the first to produce printed flags.

Note the beautiful shade of blue in the canton and how it contrasts with the blood orange stripes. There were no official qualifications for the shades of red and blue until 1912, so a wide spectrum of hues appear in early examples. While many printed flags of this era have stripes that lead strongly towards orange, the saturated colors present on this example are superior to most and particularly desirable.

The 31 star flag was official from 1851-1858. Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in 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. Most people would be surprised to learn that the infantry wasn’t authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until the 1830’s, and even then did not often exercise the right, because it was neither required nor customary. The primary purpose before the Mexican War (1846-48) was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark garrisons and government buildings, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment and a federal standard.

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 black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is some pigment loss in the canton from obvious use. There is modest fading in the stripes. There is There is minor to modest foxing and staining, accompanied by some transfer of the blue pigment to the striped field below the canton, the most significant of which occurs in the 5th red stripe. There are tack holes along the hoist, where the flag was once affixed to a wooden staff, accompanied by small tears, and there are separations in the fabric at and adjacent to the fly end, accompanied by some fraying along the fly end. The flag presents beautifully. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. * Note: The flag can be presented horizontally or vertically. Each orientation is shown in the images.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 31
Earliest Date of Origin: 1850
Latest Date of Origin: 1858
State/Affiliation: California
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD

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