|38 HAND-SEWN, SINGLE-APPLIQUÉD STARS ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG MADE AT THE TIME WHEN COLORADO WAS THE MOST RECENT STATE TO JOIN THE UNION, 1876-1889, FORMERLY PART OF THE MASTAI COLLECTION
|Frame Size (H x L):||Approx. 67.5" x 106.5"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||55" x 94"|
|38 star American national flag with important provenance and bold scale. The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. While some flag enthusiasts have pointed to this as a means of conserving fabric, (not having to cut and sew another star to the other side), others suggest that the real purpose was to make the flag lighter in weight. I believe it to have been a byproduct of both of these goals. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but also because the two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction.
The stars are arranged in justified lineal rows in counts of 8-7-8-7-8, which is a traditional format, and all of the stars are oriented in an upright position on their vertical axis (i.e., with one point up). The stripes and canton of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with treadle stitching, which is typical of the period. Because wool bunting was only available in a maximum width of eighteen inches, the canton is constructed from two lengths of blue fabric. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist, with two brass grommets, along which is a black-inked stencil that reads "8 X" to indicate the length in feet on the fly. Although unsigned, everything about the flag is indicative of the Annin Company in New York City and I would make an educated guess that this is their work. Like all major flag-makers that I have encountered in this period, the applications of maker's marks and signatures on Annin flags was inconsistent.
The name "Smith," was inscribed with a dip pen on the obverse, near the top. This would be the name of a former owner and it was common to mark flags in this fashion during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition to the two grommets, a small brass ring was hand-sewn along the hoist binding, roughly half-way between. This was done to provide additional stabilization when flown.
The flag was formerly part of the collection of Boleslaw and Marie-Louise D'Otrange Mastai. The Mastai’s held the most highly publicized collection of American flags in the country and in 1973 became the first major collectors to publish the first, major, illustrated book on the flag from the perspective of flag collecting. Many of the flags and patriotic items they owned were marked with an identifying stamp, most often with red ink. The classic Mastai stamp appears further down the binding. These are accompanied by the number "38," inscribed three times in pencil, which was also typical Mastai markings.
My former business partner wrote the catalogue for the Mastai sale at Sotheby's in 2002. We were in business together at the time and it was interesting to observe from the fringes of the project as he poured through the 600+ flag-related objects. Although we bought at least 50 flags in the sale, this was not among them. Because they were hoarders of the first order, not everything could be included, not everything was organized, and items continued to appear after the sale. I acquired this at a subsequent liquidation of objects from the Mastai estate.
Colorado became the 38th state on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Per the Third Flag Act of 1818, stars were not officially added until the 4th of July following a state's addition. For this reason, 37 was the official star count for the American flag in 1876. Flag-making was a competitive venture, however, and few flag-makers would have been continuing to produce 37 star flags when their competitors were making 38’s. It is for this reason that 38 and 13 stars (to represent the original 13 colonies) are more often seen at the Centennial International Exposition, the six-month long World’s Fair held in Philadelphia in honor of the event. Some flag-makers would have been adding a star for the 38th state even before it entered the Union, in the early part of 1876 or even prior. In fact, many makers of parade flags were actually producing 39 star flags, in hopeful anticipation of the addition of two more Western Territories instead of one. But the 39th state would not join the Union for another 13 years, when the Dakota Territory entered as two states (numbers 39 and 40) on the same day, November 2nd, 1889.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert trained 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 black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: There are three, significant, threadbare areas in the canton. These represent fabric breakdown from obvious long-term use. Each is lateral and rather narrow. One, at the top, runs about 3/5th of the flag's length, terminating at the canton's fly end. The next is in the center, is taller, and runs about 1/2 the total length of the canton. The last is the most narrow and runs just shy of 3/4 of the width, terminating at the fly end. There are numerous darning repairs in the canton, apparently made during the flag's course of use and expertly executed. There are more minor losses in the stripe field, the most significant of which are located at the fly end of the 1st, 5th, and last red stripes. There are darned repairs in the first and last red stripes, less expertly done but nonetheless endearing. There is an L-shaped tear in the 6th star in the 5th row. There is minor to modest foxing and staining in limited areas, the most significant of which is along the hoist binding, and there is moderate oxidation of the white cotton stars. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
|Collector Level:||Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1876|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1889|
|War Association:||1866-1890 Indian Wars|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|