Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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15 STARS, MADE EITHER TO CELEBRATE KENTUCKY STATEHOOD OR TO GLORIFY THE SOUTH, 1861-1876, A VERY RARE EXAMPLE

Web ID: 15j-817
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 11.75" x 16"
Flag Size (H x L): 5" x 8"
 
Description:
15 star American parade flag with 13 stripes, printed on coarse, glazed cotton. The stars are arranged in a medallion configuration that consists of a large center star, surrounded by 10 stars, with a flanking star in each corner of the blue canton. The stars have irregular profiles, which lends a crude yet simultaneously attractive visual quality to the overall presentation.

A small group of 15 star parade flags of a similar nature was discovered a number of years ago, together with a group of 35 star parade flags that were period to West Virginia statehood (1863-64). Both were obviously produced by the same flag-maker, with the same fabric and pigments, so the date of manufacture of the 15 star variety could be logically dated to the Civil War period. The flag that is the subject of this narrative, although slightly different in style, is nearly identical in size and color, and was manufactured in the same general era, though probably by a different manufacturer and perhaps a bit later.

The 15 stars reflect one of two potential functions. One possibility is that they represent the number of states that the maker felt were allied with the South. While 11 states "officially" seceded from the Union, voting for secession by popular vote and with their state governments formally ratifying that vote, there were, at the beginning of the Civil War, four additional Border States. These generally supported the South, but didn't secede in such a formal manner. Together they represented all 15 of the Slave States.

Another possibility is that the star count was selected to glorify Kentucky, the citizens of which were involved in a dilemma regarding their allegiance. Men from Kentucky served on both sides of the battle field. While the state attempted to maintain neutrality, the invasion by Confederate troops prompted them to call upon Union forces to drive out the Confederate Army. On November 20th 1861, while in a state of unrest, the people of Kentucky formed a group styling itself as a "Convention of the people of Kentucky". With 200 participants representing 65 counties, the group voted in favor of secession and the Confederate States of America formally admitted Kentucky as the 13th state on December 10th, 1861. Because this vote wasn't ratified by the state legislature, as was the case in the first 11 Confederate States, Kentucky is considered a Border State. A different although similar situation occurred in Missouri, which was also formally admitted by Jefferson Davis (number 12), yet remained a Border State in the eyes of the Union, since the official government of the state did not vote on secession.

The group of similar 15 star flags and 35 star flags referenced above turned up at a yard sale in the southern part of Ohio, which shares its southern border with Kentucky. Because 15 star parade flags are so rare, and because the similar group was found so near to Kentucky, it is logical to suggest that the flags may have been intended for use by Kentucky residents, whether in their own state, or possibly in a nearby metropolis, such as Cincinnati. It is interesting to note that the 35 star variety is practically as rare, with fewer than fifteen known examples. West Virginia became the 35th state when it broke off from Virginia during the Civil War in 1863. It also borders both Ohio and Kentucky, which draws another possible parallel to the flags' regional use. This is unusual, as flags with 35 stars were in used nation-wide among union supporters, just as 50 star flags are in use today across the country and around the world and bear no relevance to the 50th state (Hawaii). While it may be simply coincidental that the flags were found in close proximity to Kentucky and West Virginia, it does raise suspicion that there might be some reason for flags in these two star counts

As previously mentioned, this particular variety of 15 star flag is slightly different and possibly a bit later. Approximately 5 examples in this style are presently known. One of these is illustrated in "The Stars & The Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit" by J. Richard Pierce (J. Richard Pierce, 2005), p. 11. If not made during the Civil War itself, there are two likely alternatives. Kentucky celebrated its 75th anniversary of statehood in 1867, just two years following the Civil War. Not long after, in 1876, our nation celebrated its 100th anniversary of independence from Great Britain. Either of these two milestones would represent a good reason to produce flags with 15 stars. That said, surviving 15 star flags that date to the 19th century are rare. The fact that so few exist raises their interest among collectors who wish to own a flag in that star count, irrespective of the precise period of its manufacture, and the speculation of the reason behind the use of that count is certainly compelling.

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 crude, hand-made, black-painted frame retains its original surface and is exceptional. Haphazardly mortised and nailed, it dates to the 18th century or possibly prior. We modified this on the unseen interior for modern use and structural support. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. Spacers keep the textile away from the glass, which is U.V. protective. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is significant pigment loss in the canton, accompanied by a fold that caused a misprint in the lower, hoist-end corner. The fold extends into the last 3 stripes, which also bear minor misprinting as a result. There was a spot of significant soiling, approximately 3/8" tall x 1" wide, in the first white stripe, and two spots in the second, including one of roughly the same scale and one approximately 1/4" in diameter. Slight bleaching was present in the second and third red stripes, adjacent to the affected areas. Professional cleaning was undertaken in the white stripes (largely unsuccessful), followed by professional color restoration with a reversible medium in both the white and the red.

Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. This example presents beautifully. Its great rarity well-warrants the condition.
   
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 15
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Kentucky
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com


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