Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 46.5" x 70.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 34" x 58.25"
32 star American flags are rare. This is largely because they were only official for one year (1858-59), but it is also because their period of use was prior to the Civil War, in an era when use of the Stars & Stripes in the private sector was slim-to-non-existent.

Minnesota joined the Union as the 32nd state on May 11th, 1858. The 32 star flag became official on July 4th of that year and remained so until July 3rd of 1859, but since Oregon joined the Union on February 14th (Valentines Day), 1859, production of 32 star flags probably ceased well before July. Because it was effectively a 1-year flag, surviving examples are extremely scarce.

Flags made prior to the Civil War are rare in general, comprising less than one or two percent of 19th century flags that have survived in the 21st century. This is partly because our flag wasn't used in the same purposes in early America as we employ it in today. Private individuals did not generally display the flag. 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 garrisons, a regulation garrison flag was 35 feet long and the version that replaced it in a storm measured 20 feet on the fly. Few of that scale exist today from early America, and, for obvious reasons, they are not convenient to frame and display, making them undesirable to the vast majority of serious collectors.

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. It was not until the Civil War took place that most U.S. ground forces carried the national flag. The first war that it was officially carried in was the Mexican War (1846-48), but this was short-lived and the number of troops that participated was small. The population of America was small. When General Fremont entered California at about the same time to claim control of the territory, attempting to box out Mexico and Great Britain, did so very effectively with 100 men. With this tiny force he easily took Los Angeles and numerous other settlements. The total population of the entirety of Texas in 1848 was approximately 116,000, not counting slaves.

Because no wars were in progress in the period of Minnesota Statehood, between 1858 and 1859, there was very little need for flag production.

Some pre-Civil War star counts were reproduced after the Civil War for a myriad of purposes, including such things as World’s Fairs and anniversaries of statehood. For all practical purposes, however, 32 star flags were not. There is only one known, commercially-made style, and within that design, only 3 or 4 examples exist. This particular flag is one of them. It was likely produced sometime between 1892 and 1926 for one of several possible purposes. Given its construction, the earliest viable theory is that it was made between 1892-93 for the Minnesota Pavillon at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (The World Columbian Exposition). The zigzag stitch used to appliqué the stars was patented for use on flags in 1892. In itself this means relatively little in terms of dating the flag, as the zigzag stitch soon became the most popular method of applying stars to flags and it remained so until just after WWII. But the particular shade of indigo blue colored wool bunting and the hourglass star configuration are both suggestive of such a date. Both are seen with some frequently on 44 star examples, made between 1890 and 1896. With larger rows at the top and bottom, the star configuration does look like the hourglass pattern that was popular in flags of the 44 star count. This dusty blue coloration is also encountered in flags made at the tail end of the 38 star period (1876-1889), at the very beginning of the 45 star period (1896-1908), as well as in 13 star flags being made during the 1st half of the 1890's.

Some alternative theories are that the flag might have been made for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis (The Louisiana Purchase Exposition), or to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the addition of Minnesota in 1908, or for the Minnesota Pavillion at the U.S. Sesquicentennial Expo in Philadelphia in 1926 (our nation’s 150th anniversary of independence). Whatever the case may be, this particular variety remains undocumented in any text, but I own a remarkable postcard that dates sometime between the 1890's and the 1920's, that features a photo of one of these exact flags being hung at some kind of tented camp, perhaps during a Civil War or Spanish American War veteran's reunion. A digital copy of the image accompanies this flag.

The stars on this flag are configured in rows of 6-5-5-5-5-6, with the top and bottom rows offset so that they resemble a broad hourglass. This is an attractive pattern that stands out from more common lineal formations. The particular way that the rows are staggered resembles yet another odd type of lineal configuration that I call “Global Rows”, because of the way in which the stars resemble a two-dimensional representation of a world map. This is seen on a notable variety of 34 star parade flag (1861-63), but is rarely encountered on sewn examples of any period.

The canton and stripes of the flag are constructed of wool bunting that has been pieced by machine. The stars, which all point upward, are double appliquéd (applied to both sides of the blue canton), made of cotton, and machine-sewn with a zigzag stitch. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two white metal grommets, one each at the top and bottom. A cotton tie was threaded and tied in the former of these and was left intact. The abbreviation "AMcC" was inscribed along the hoist binding with a dip pen, on the obverse. This would represent the name of a former owner and it was common to mark flags in this fashion during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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 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 minor to mothing through out the striped field, accompanied by modest holes from the same in the 1st, 8th, 10th, and 13th stripes, towards the fly end. There is minor oxidation in the stars and there is very minor soiling along the hoist binding. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 32
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1926
State/Affiliation: Minnesota
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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