Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags


Web ID: 38j-1118
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 23.75" x 27"
Flag Size (H x L): 16" x 19"
This remarkable 38 star American parade flag, printed on plain weave cotton, is an anomaly among its counterparts of the 19th century. Across the many hundreds of varieties of parade flags that I have identified, only two other styles display stars with a different number of points throughout. The format presented here has 6-pointed stars, not unlike the star of David, but stretched vertically in an almost cartoon-like, modernistic fashion. The result is wholly unlike any other parade flag of any period.

The stars are arranged in linear rows of 8-7-8-7-8. Both color and shape contribute significantly to the flag's strong graphic qualities. The near-to-square appearance mimics that of infantry battle flags of the time, which is both academically and visually interesting, and simply different than what one would expect of a modern flag. Even more impactful is the beautiful light blue color of the flag's canton, which is likewise square in shape and plays a role in its unique appearance. Another unusual trait is the use of white pigment on the white fabric, to print the stars and the white stripes. Though not completely unknown, and not of such great importance, it is certainly interesting to see.

When I acquired this flag from a long-time collector, the basic style was known to me from a tiny, paper parade flag-variety that was distributed on a wire staff instead of wood. I have seen perhaps 6 of these over the years, but I had never seen or heard of a cotton version, nor would I have ever guessed that such a flag might exist and in a size so much larger than the 4.5-inch long paper examples.

The discovery of flags of this magnitude--especially when one-of-a-kind among known examples--is precisely what drives true collectors of the rare and unique.

Past a single, surviving 34 star (1861-63) parade flag with 5-pointed stars surrounding a 6-pointed star, the only other type that can be confidently dated to the 19th century is a centennial style with 10-pointed stars. The stars of that type spell out the dates "1776" and "1876" and numerous examples of it survive. It is also of interest to note that a single copy of a 48 star parade flag is known with 8-pointed stars.

The reason behind the inclusion of the 6-pointed star design is not known. In present times, one might equate this profile with the Star of David. More commonly referred to as the Shield of David in the 19th century, it did not bear widespread popularity and use as a primary symbol of the Jewish faith until the 20th century.

While 6-pointed stars were more commonly seen on American flags and related heraldic devices in 18th century imagery, most notably on George Washington's own personal standard, stars with this number of points usually bore closer resemblance to the rowels of a spur than the Star of David.

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. The 39th state would not join the Union for another 13 years, however, when the Dakota Territory entered as two states on the same day. The 38 star flag became official on July 4th, 1877 and was generally used until the addition of the Dakotas in 1889.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that was washed to remove excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a molding with a step-down profile that is very dark brown in color, nearly black, with red highlights and overtones, to which a flat, silver molding was added as a liner. A shadowbox was created for more dramatic effect. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas.

Condition: There are notches in the fabric along the hoist end, where the flag was once affixed to its original wooden staff. There some soiling and pigment loss throughout, especially in the white. Professional cleaning was undertaken with great success. Some color restoration was undertaken with a reversible medium. There are a couple of pinprick-sized holes at the fly end and there is very minor fraying around the perimeter. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Further, the great rarity and desirability of this flag warrants practically any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1889
State/Affiliation: Colorado
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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