Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags


Web ID: 13j-1529
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 62.25" x 91"
Flag Size (H x L): 49.25" x 77.25"
13 star American national flag with exceptional visual qualities, made sometime between roughly 1850 and the Civil War (1861-65). 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. On this particular example they 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. Note the size of the stars themselves, which are uncommonly large with respect to the size of the blue canton. The use of an even larger star in the center results in a extremely bold presentation, while the whimsical nature of the variation inherent in the hand-constructed shape of each, in addition to the varied orientation in which they appear on their vertical axis, results in a hefty degree of folk quality.

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 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.

The name 3rd Maryland 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.

The construction of the flag is entirely hand-sewn throughout. The stars are made of cotton and are double appliquéd (applied to both sides). The canton and stripes are made of wool bunting. The canton is constructed in a somewhat unusual fashion, whereby the maker did not use a full width of fabric (typically 18”), plus a second length in whatever size was necessary to complete the necessary scale, but rather decided to piece six strips of fabric to complete the desired task. While it is most likely that these were left over from the previous manufacture of other flags, in an effort to conserve fabric, it is also possible that the maker may have selected this method for stability. Piecing in this fashion, while tedious, did minimize stretching and increased structural integrity.

There is a coarsely woven binding along the hoist, probably a blend of linen and hemp, with two hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommets. A length of early braided rope is present in the top grommet (formerly located in the bottom grommet, but we moved it, because it presents better at the top).

While the scale of this flag may seem large by modern standards, its size is actually small for the mid-19th century. At time, flags with pieced-and-sewn construction were generally 8 feet long and larger. Even infantry battle flags were 6 x 6.5 feet, the same length as this example, but a full two feet taller on the hoist. Garrison flags were 35 feet on the fly. Flags were generally huge because they needed to be, in order that they could be effective in their function as signals.

Due to a combination of the size and whimsical shape of the stars, and their positioning, the attractive and desirable star pattern, strong colors, manageable scale, age, and entirely hand-sewn construction, this is an exceptional example of the latter Antebellum and Civil War era.

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 very minor mothing in the canton, accompanied by minor to modest foxing mothing in the striped field. There is some bleaching in the last 3 red stripes and there is minor foxing and staining in the white cotton and wool. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1850
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
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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