Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags


Web ID: 13j-1510
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 40.75" x 47.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 29" x 35.25"
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 1824-25, the celebration of the centennial of American independence 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 while campaigning for the same reason.

As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit their full complement on a small flag. The stars would, by necessity, have to become smaller, which made it more and more difficult to view them from a distance as individual objects. The fear was that too many of them close together would become as one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas. Keeping the count low allowed for better visibility. For this reason the U.S. Navy flew 13 star flags on small boats. Some private ship owners mirrored this practice and flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy.

Flag experts disagree about the precisely when the Navy began to revert to 13 stars and other low counts. Some feel that the use of 13 star flags never stopped, which seems to be supported by depictions of ships in period artwork. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states. Any American flag that has previously been official remains so according to the flag acts, so it remains perfectly acceptable to fly 13 star flags today by way of congressional law.

Since there was no official star configuration until the 20th century (1912 specifically, beginning with the 48 star count), the stars on 13 star flags may appear in any one of a host of configurations. Some of these are more rare and desirable than others. The stars of this particular flag are arranged in a circular wreath of 12 with a single star in the center. This basic configuration, whether oval or circular, has come to be known as the "3rd Maryland Pattern" and the design is very desirable due to both its visual attractiveness and the scarcity of its use.

The name comes from a flag that resides at the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis, long thought to have been present with General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781. According to legend, the flag was supposed to have been carried by Color Sergeant William Batchelor of the Maryland Light Infantry and was donated to the State of Maryland by Batchelor's descendants. The story was disproved in the 1970's, however, following an examination by the late flag expert Grace Rogers Cooper of the Smithsonian. She discovered that the Cowpens flag was, at the earliest, of Mexican War vintage (1846-48).

Despite the lack of direct association with the reputed regiment, many flag collectors and enthusiasts embraced the name "3rd Maryland" and it stuck to the design. The term actually received some legitimacy through the existence of a similar flag, in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History & Technology, with verified Maryland provenance. This was carried by the Maryland and District of Columbia Battalion of Volunteers during the Mexican War. While the configuration is known to be an early one, as evidenced by 18th century illustrations, this star pattern is most often encountered among surviving flags that date to the mid-19th century, roughly within the Mexican War to Civil War time frame (1846-1865). For some reason it seems to have not been quite as popular during our nation's 100-year anniversary, in 1876, but some examples of that period are known. It was also revived in small scale, commercially-produced flags during the 1890-1920's time frame.

Made sometime during the Civil War (1861-65) and the 1876 centennial of American independence, this particular example is entirely hand-sewn. The stars are made of cotton, are presented in a circular version of the 3rd Maryland pattern, and feature a large center star that adds a bold visual element. The stars are double appliquéd (applied to both sides) on a canton of lustrous, cornflower blue cotton. The application of the canton is a bit unusual, in that the field of pieced-and-sewn cotton stripes was constructed first, then two lengths of the blue fabric were laid over top, so that they sandwich the stripes in between. This manner of construction is often encountered on high end, commercially-made flags with painted or embroidered elements, during the 19th century, but is seldom seen on any flags with appliquéd stars, whether homemade or otherwise.

A narrow cotton sleeve binds the hoist, through which a braided cotton rope, looped at the top and bottom, was inserted and stitched firmly in place. Wrapped at the top and bottom, at each end there is a crude ring made of brass wire.

Note wide width of the white stripes are when compared to the much narrower red, which adds an interesting graphic quality. Also note how the shade of blue contrasts so beautifully with the red and white.

Yet another interesting feature is profile of the flag. Nearly square in shape, and appearing even more so due to its square canton, the design mimics infantry battle flags. This is more unusual to the modern eye, which makes it more attractive to flag enthusiasts among vintage examples.

Of further consideration is the tiny size of the flag, when compared to others of this period, which adds considerable appeal. During the 19th century, printed parade flags (sometimes called hand-wavers) were generally three feet long or smaller, but flags with pieced-and-sewn construction were generally 8 feet long and larger. Prior to 1890, a flag that was 6-feet in length on the fly was considered small. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals, while today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism. The smaller flags with sewn construction are during this era, the more unusual they are. At just under 2.5 x 3 feet, this flag is exceptionally tiny among its counterparts. Because the average 19th century sewn flag can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting, many collectors covet small sewn flags, like this one.

Due to a combination of its star pattern, the varying width of the stripes, use of bold colors, tiny scale, and entirely hand-sewn construction, the age, and pleasing, square proportions, this is a beautiful example among 13 star flags of the 19th century.

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 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 plexiglass. Feel free to inquire for more details.

Condition: There is minor to modest foxing and staining throughout. This was reduced in certain areas from what it was previously, through professional cleaning. There is a lateral tear at the fly end of the last stripe. . Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age gracefully.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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