|36 STARS IN THE "GREAT STAR" OR "GREAT LUMINARY" PATTERN, ON A MERINO WOOL FLAG OF THE CIVIL WAR ERA WITH BEAUTIFUL SCARLET AND ROYAL BLUE COLOR AND WITH ITS CANTON RESTING ON THE "WAR STRIPE," REFLECTS NEVADA STATEHOOD, 1864-67
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 81.5" x 106.5"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|69.25" x 94.25"
|36 star antique American flag of the Civil War era, with some rare, desirable, and beautiful features. The most obvious of these is the configuration of the stars. These are arranged in what is known as the “Great Star” or "Great Luminary" pattern, a star made out of stars, which is one of the most graphic and desired geometric designs among flag enthusiasts.
Nevada entered the Union as the 36th state on October 31st, Halloween, in 1864. Ushered in by Abraham Lincoln just eight days before the presidential election that resulted in his second term, the territory’s wealth in silver was attractive to a nation struggling with the debts of war and so increased support for the Republican ticket. The 36th star was officially added on July 4th, 1865, but since the flag makers generally cared very little about official star counts, the production of 36 star flags began much earlier. The makers of printed flags are known to have begun adding the 36th star as early as July of 1864, several months before the addition of Nevada actually occurred. This was a common practice during the late 19th century and is reflective of both the nation's desire for Westward Expansion and the hope of flag-makers to bring new star counts to market before their competitors. The 36 star flag was officially replaced by the 37 star flag in 1867, following the addition of Nebraska.
Great Stars come in many forms. This particular example has a single center star, surrounded by a pentagon of 5 stars, set inside its star-shaped perimeter. Note how the Great Star is positioned with two points up instead of one and so is effectively upside-down with respect to modern convention. Unlike the current flag, versions of the Stars & Stripes made during the 19th century and prior often displayed stars that were varied or completely random in their rotation on a vertical axis. Note how the feature draws attention and is unusual to the eye, in addition to being visually appealing.
Another interesting trait can be seen in the fact that the canton rests on a red stripe. When this scarce condition occurs, some flag historians have referred to it as the “blood stripe” or the “war stripe”, suggesting the flag was constructed in this manner when the nation was at war. In actuality, the placement probably occurred more often by accident. Not everyone knew where the canton was traditionally positioned, and because there was no official specification until 1912, there was no official placement. Whatever the case may be with regarding the reason, the war stripe feature is highly coveted by collectors.
The stars of the flag are hand-sewn, made of cotton, and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). The canton and stripes of the flag are made of fine merino wool. These are beautiful, luxurious fabrics with strong royal blue and scarlet color. Every seam was joined with a row of hand-stitching, then finished with a row of treadle stitching. Instead of employing the selvage edge of the red fabric, the top and bottom edges of the flag were turned under and seamed by hand and the fly end was seamed in the same fashion. There is a narrow binding along the hoist, treadle-sewn and made of cotton. Along this five cotton tabs were affixed, each with a tiny brass ring, which suggests that the flag was probably affixed to a wooden staff with twine or ribbon and hand-carried.
The name of "Stow" is inscribed along the hoist. This would be the name of a former owner.
In the field of early American flags, the Great Star configuration is generally regarded as the Rolls Royce of 19th century geometric patterns. Although conceptualized as early as 1782, and depicted in that year on the first die cut of the newly adopted Great Seal of the United States, the popularity of arranging the stars in the form of one big star seems to have spread shortly after the War of 1812. In hopes of standardizing the flag's appearance, Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 naval hero, be charged with the creation of a design that would become the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Reid became harbor master of New York following the war. During his lifetime, he created many innovations in signal use, including a system that could actually send messages from New York to New Orleans by sea in just two hours.
Use as a Naval signal had been the primary reason for the initial creation of an American national flag in 1777, but since there was no official star design, the appearance of our flag varied greatly. Reid and Wendover’s primary concerns centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. Their hope was that as more and more states joined the Union, and more and more stars were thus added to the flag, that it would remain easy to identify its design on the open seas. In 1818, Reid suggested to Congress that the number of stripes permanently return to 13, (their count having been increased to 15 in 1795 with the Second Flag Act, which added two more stars for the newest States of Vermont and Kentucky,) and that the stars be grouped into the shape of one large star.
Reid’s proposal would have kept the star constellation in roughly the same format, in a pattern that could be quickly identified through at a distance as the number of states grew. His concept for the stripes was ultimately accepted, but his advice on the star pattern was rejected by President James Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in what would become known as the “Great Star”, “Great Flower”, or “Great Luminary” pattern. Monroe probably didn’t wish to impose this cost on either the government or civilians, so he suggested a simple pattern of justified rows. Never-the-less, the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it and its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags with this configuration.
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 for support throughout. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric has been washed to reduce 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 placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding.
Condition: There are very tiny holes and losses throughout. There is a minor hole in the last white stripe, adjacent to the hoist end. There are period darning repairs to lateral tears and small holes in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th white stripes. Minor repairs were made, during the period of the flag's use, at the extreme top and bottom of the hoist binding, because the tiny tabs holding the brass rings had apparently come off from extended use and needed to be re-attached. The overall condition is extraordinary and the period darning repairs are endearing.
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|Earliest Date of Origin:
|Latest Date of Origin:
|1861-1865 Civil War
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