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  35 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG OF THE CIVIL WAR PERIOD, IN A DESIRABLE SMALL SCALE AMONG ITS COUNTERPARTS, REFLECTS THE TIME DURING WHICH WEST VIRGINIA WAS THE MOST RECENT STATE TO JOIN THE UNION, 1863-1865

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 47" x 67.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 35" x 55.5"
Description....:
35 star American national flag, made during the closing years of the Civil War, 1863-1865. The stars are arranged in 5 staggered rows of 7 stars each. While all of these are oriented with one point directed upward, not how the rows are not consistently straight, and how the arms are of inconsistent sizes and/or are otherwise bent in a crude fashion. On the obverse (front), two of these are actually tucked slightly under the seam at the fly end of the canton. Note how the combination of these things adds a nice element of folk quality to the flag's presentation.

West Virginia broke off from Virginia and was admitted into the Union as the 35th state (a Free State) on June 20th, 1863, a few days before the battle of Gettysburg. The 35th star was officially added on July 4th, and the flag was used during the closing years of the war. Production would have generally ceased the following year, however, with the addition of Nevada as the 36th state on October 31st, 1864.

The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with treadle stitching. The stripes and canton are made of wool bunting that has been pieced and sewn by the same method. This fabric was unique to the manufacture of flags and banners and was not used for other utilitarian objects or clothing. Because wool sheds water it was the most typical fabric employed in the manufacture of flags for long-term, outdoor use. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two zinc-plated, brass grommets. The flag would have been commercially-made in a cottage industry setting and displays the sort of attributes typical of many hand-made objects of the time. Note how the last stripe is significantly wider than the rest and how the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th red stripes are, at least in sections, significantly more narrow than the rest.

Adding to the flag's appeal is its small scale. During the 19th century, flags with pieced-and-sewn construction (as opposed to printed) were typically eight feet long and larger. This is because they were important in their function as signals, meaning that they needed to be seen and recognized from great distance. A flag that was six feet in length was considered small and production of flags smaller than this was extremely limited. Even infantry battle flags were approximately six by six and-one-half feet and thus practically the size of an average quilt of the same period. Measuring just 35 x 55.5 inches, this is extremely small among its surviving counterparts.

  As time passed, circumstances changed and sewn flags began to find more of a decorative purpose. It wasn't until the 1890’s that manufacturers began to produce smaller sewn flags in great quantity. These generally had 13 stars, due to the greater ease in interpreting their shape at a distance on a small field (a practice long maintained by the U.S. Navy). Production of these continued into the 1920’s, but during the same era, flags were not normally produced with pieced-and-sewn construction that bore the full complement of stars. The same was true prior to 1890, save in much smaller quantity.

Flags smaller than five feet, when they were made at all, would usually have 13 stars. Those with a count that reflected the number of states at the time of manufacture were few and far between. Both of these circumstances, meaning a combination of the small size of this example among its counterparts, and the fact that it contains the complete star count, add considerable interest to flag collectors, most of whom prefer smaller flags because they are more practical to frame and display.

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 flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field for support. It was then sewn 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 black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There are a few small holes from use, accompanied by minor mothing throughout, more of which occurs in the red wool than in the white or the blue. There is minor soiling. The stitching at the fly end had blown out from wind shear, evidently not having been properly secured. The fold lines and holes from stitching were clear. We folded it back properly into place and hand-hemmed the fabric on the original lines.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 35
Earliest Date of Origin: 1863
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
State/Affiliation: West Virginia
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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