Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 36.5" x 48.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 24.25" x 36"
The Great Seal of the State of West Virginia was adopted during the Civil War, on September 26, 1863. This occurred just three months after the new state broke off from Virginia, which had seceded to the South in the early part of 1861, to be admitted to the Union as the 35th state. Though admitted as a Free State, it was nonetheless considered a Border State, as many of its residents supported the Confederacy.

The seal, also used as the Coat of Arms, remains largely unchanged from its original form. In the center is a rock, covered with ivy, at the base and etched with the date of June 20, 1863. This denotes its admission just ten days before the Battle of Gettysburg. To the viewer's left is the representation of a farmer with axe and plow, next to standing stalks of corn and a sheave of wheat. To the right is a miner with a pick-axe, leaning on the rock, before mounds of coal, barrels, a crate, and a hammer and anvil. All of these elements are included to represent industry. Crossed rifles lay at the feet of the men, with a liberty cap at their crux. Below, on a red streamer, are the Latin words: "Montani Semper Liberi," which translates to "Mountaineers Will Always Be Free."

While some of the earliest states, such as Pennsylvania and New York, officially adopted or at least used flags, almost from their very origin, many had seals, but no flag until much later. The fuel that lit the fire for most states to design a flag was their desire to participate in Worlds Fairs. In the case of West Virginia, this occurred with the State's involvement at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. The state commission formed to represent West Virginia at the fair designed a plain white flag with a blue border, with a sprig of Rhododendron (the state flower) in the center. In 1905 the state legislature adopted this design, adding a carmine red fringe. Two years later, in 1907, this was moved to the reverse and the state seal was added as a central device on the obverse, placed inside a circular medallion with a fanciful circular border in gold. Beneath "State of West Virginia" was added on another red streamer. At the same time, the red fringe was changed to "old gold."

In 1929, desiring that the two-sided state flag could be produced more cost-effectively for display in public schools, the image was made the same on both sides and the Rhododendron was included as an open wreath, around the seal, with a blue bow at the base. The window around the coat of arms was changed to a shield-like medallion of fanciful scrollwork, and the banner with the state's name was moved above the new device.

This particular flag follows the 1929 pattern. A parade flag, printed on coarse, glazed cotton, the general construction, appearance, and pigments remind me much more of the 1890's than 1930. Measuring approx. 2 x 3 feet, it is idea for use in a school house and this may have been its intent. The glazing is beautiful, the colors are rich and vibrant, and I would have to argue that this is one of the most striking of all state designs and perhaps my favorite of all 50. One of the most pleasing aspects is the printed representation of the old "gold fringe." Rendered in what I would call chrome yellow, if it appeared on an early piece of American paint-decorated furniture, this contrasts beautifully with the cornflower blue border. The thoughtful use of red, blue, and yellow throughout the device gives it great color balance to complement the beautiful graphics, and the inclusion of this gold fringe makes it instantly identifiable. Many states use a form of their great seal in the center, but most can take some time to identify versus others of the same sort. Many, for example, use a plain blue background. While the design didn’t rank well against the other 50 states in a survey of the North American Vexillogical Association, I would argue that it is among the best of those that employ a state seal. One doesn't need to view the seal to identify the flag at a glance.

The feel of the flag itself makes me wonder if this design wasn't created earlier, for an event such as the 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, or the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, or another, earlier fair, then simply proposed in 1929 to replace the official design. The further one goes back in American history, the more variation there was in both state seals and their application on flags. In the late 19th century, artists drawing, painting, embroidering or engraving seals on paper, cloth, or wood, often took great liberty in their rendering. Given its likeness to the current design, it was probably made in or very shortly after 1929, by a printer of parade flags that used fabric and methods more consistent with decades prior, but the possibility exists that the flag pre-dates the 1929 resolution. Slight differences also hint at this theory, including the fact that the bow is blue here instead of red (on the present flag), the yellow border of the West Virginia streamer, now solid red, and the positions in which the men star standing, which differ as well and tend to vary a lot in early examples of all state seals.

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 black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1929
Latest Date of Origin: 1935
State/Affiliation: West Virginia
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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