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15 STARS ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG MADE EITHER TO CELEBRATE KENTUCKY STATEHOOD, OR TO GLORIFY THE SOUTH, 1861-1865, A VERY RARE EXAMPLE WITH GREAT FOLK QUALITIES

Web ID: 15j-819
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 13.5" x 16.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 5.25" x 8.25"
 
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 single center star, surrounded by 10 stars, with a flanking star in each corner of the blue canton. Note the huge scale of the star in the middle, which contributes a great deal to the flag's bold presentation. Also note the irregular profiles of the stars and how their long and narrow arms stars lend crude, yet simultaneously attractive visual qualities.

A group of flags in this exact style was found along the Ohio border, rolled up together with a group of 35 star parade flags in a known but rare variety that dates to the latter half of the Civil War, 1863-1865, and reflects the addition of West Virginia as the 35th state. Both these and the 15 star variant were obviously made at or near the same time, by the same maker.

The count of 15 stars reflects 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 formally secede 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, some residents formed a group styling itself as a "Convention of the people of Kentucky". With 200 participants representing 65 counties, the Southern-leaning caucus voted in favor of secession. Recognizing ample support within the state, despite its mixed allegiances, Jefferson Davis formally admitted Kentucky into the Confederate States of America 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 had already been admitted on Halloween, October 31st, 1861. Like Kentucky, the Missouri state legislature did not vote on secession and it remained a Border State. . Unlike the other Border States of Maryland, Delaware and eventually West Virginia (admitted as a free state in 1863, but with distinctly Southern sympathies), Kentucky and Missouri are represented among the 13 stars on most Confederate flags in the Battle Flag / Army of Northern Virginia format. For this reason, 15 stars and 13 stripes could bear a distinctly Southern meaning.

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 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 metropolitan area, 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.

Another, similar variety of 15 star parade flag is know that is slightly different in style. While not as visually intriguing as the flag in question here, only about 5 examples of this second style are presently known. One of these, which I previously bought and sold, 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 is one other likely alternative. Kentucky celebrated its 75th anniversary of statehood in 1867, just two years following the Civil War. This would certainly be a good reason to produce flags with 15 stars. Whatever the case may be, 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 this star count, irrespective of the precise period of its manufacture, and the speculation of the reason behind the use of 15 stars 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 gilded American molding dates to the period between 1830 and 1850. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated to reduce and set the dye. Spacers keep the textile away from the glass, which is U.V. protective.

Condition: There is moderate staining in limited areas, including the canton and the last white stripe. There is minor to modest foxing and staining along and adjacent to the hoist, and in limited other areas. There is a small number of pinprick-sized holes, accompanied by a small tear near the fly end of the last white stripe, with associated loss. There is a diagonal split in the canton, running through 2 stars. A small, triangular-shaped section of fabric is absent from the upper of these two stars, along the top of the canton. We laid period, parade flag fabric behind this area for masking purposes. 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: 1863
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
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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