Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 36" x 51.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 23.5" x 39"
Early state flags fall between very scarce and extraordinarily rare in the antiques marketplace. One primary reason for this is that most states, even if they existed during the 18th or 19th century, didn’t actually adopt flags until the early 20th century. The Maryland State Legislature, for example, didn’t find need for a state banner until 1904, in spite of the fact that Maryland was one of the original 13 colonies.

Some of the earliest states, such as Pennsylvania and New York, officially adopted or at least used flags, almost from their very origin. All adopted official seals (i.e., crests / coats-of-arms), many doing so while still territories, preceding statehood, but most adopted no flag until many years later.

Ohio joined the Union as the 17th state on February 19th, 1803, during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson and in the same year that he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. When Ohio finally adopted a flag in 1902, 99 years later, only 19 of America's 45 states had done so. In most cases, the fuel that lit the fire for such action was participation in Worlds Fairs. Ohio was active in several prior to the turn-of-the-century, but it was the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo where things changed.

When states had the both the budget and the wherewithal to do so, they built a stand-alone structure in which their World's Fair exhibit would be housed. These were not like modern county fairs, which run for a few days, or for a week or so at best. World's Fairs typically had a duration of several months and required extensive construction, more attuned to what one might expect in a present-day Olympic Games. In fact, the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Expo was held in St. Louis as part of, and in conjunction with, the 1904 games.

In 1901, the Ohio building at the Pan American Expo was designed by Cleveland architect John Eisenmann, who also designed a banner that flew atop the structure. This was adopted by the Ohio Commission, which was the name of the legislative body placed in charge of the state's involvement at the fair. When incumbent Ohio Governor George Nash was attending the event, State Senator Samuel L. Patterson presented him with the Eisenmann-designed flag, and the following year, on May 9th, the design was officially adopted by the Ohio legislature.

The elements of the Ohio state flag are centered on a red disc, set against a circular white ground that forms a letter "O." This simultaneously represents a buckeye, the fruit of the state tree and an iconic Ohio symbol. The flag's 5 stripes are said to represent the state's waterways and roads, while the triangular shape of the union is said to illustrate hills and valleys. The presentation of 13 stars along the hoist end, arranged in a semi-circular medallion with two off-set stars above and below, reflects the original 13 colonies. The diamond of stars, towards the fly end. bring the overall count to 17 to reflect Ohio's admission. When the design was adopted by the state legislature, the position of these stars was changed slightly, moving them further around the circle to form a wreath.

Flag expert Whitney Smith, who coined the term Vexillology in the late 1950's (the accepted term for the study of flags), pointed out that the format of the flag itself was reminiscent of Civil War cavalry guidons, carried by Ohio regiments throughout the state. These were of swallowtail form, though with 13 stripes, all horizontal and 90 degrees to the hoist. Most often these had circular star patterns around an open center, which makes them even more similar to the Ohio flag. Although these were carried everywhere throughout the North, the flags are certainly similar. The Ohio flag, however, is in the shape of a ship's burgee rather than that of a U.S. Cavalry guidon. This is especially appropriate due to the importance of the Ohio River, as well as Lake Erie. For thousands upon thousands of American settlers, the Ohio River, largest of the Mississippi's tributaries, was the gateway to the American West. Its own tributaries provided transport throughout the state itself, while Lake Erie opened passage to Michigan and beyond. All were the lifeblood of industry and trade.

The flag represents the very earliest of examples that one might expect to encounter. The construction and general feel of the textile both point to the 1890 - WWI era, yet because the flag didn't exist until 1901, and wasn't adopted until 1902, I would place the possible window of origin between 1902 and the mid-teens. This places it among the earliest Ohio State flags that I have thus far encountered. Expertly constructed, the flag is made entirely of cotton that has been pieced and sewn with machine stitching. The stars are appliquéd with a lineal machine stitch, which, while sometimes seen in this time period, is more indicative of the early 1890's in commercially-made examples. Due to this fact, and because it is one-sided, the flag was probably homemade. The hoist end is rolled over and bound, with no formal header. This is not surprising for a homemade example and is sometimes encountered in commercially-produced flags. The most likely purpose of the flag would be for use during Ohio's participation in the 1904 St. Louis Expo. in Missouri, the 1905 Louis & Clark Centennial Expo. in Portland, Oregon, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expo. in Seattle, or the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo., a major 1915 fair held in San Francisco.

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 presentation of flags and have preserved thousands of examples.

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

Condition: There are minor stains in the lowest two bars, but there are no further condition issues.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 17
Earliest Date of Origin: 1902
Latest Date of Origin: 1915
State/Affiliation: Ohio
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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