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U.S. NAVY COMMISSION PENNANT WITH 7 STARS, IN A SELDOM-ENCOUNTERED SCALE, CIRCA 1899 -1915

Web ID: 07j-881
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 25.5" x 40.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 3.5" x 102" (unfurled)
 
Description:
United States Navy ship's commission pennant, in an unusual scale among surviving examples, made sometime in the period between the year following the Spanish American War (1898) and 1915.

Commissioning pennants are the distinguishing mark of a commissioned U.S. Navy ship. A ship became commissioned when this pennant was hoisted. Flown during both times of peace and war, the only time the pennant is not flown is if a flag officer or civilian official is aboard and replaces it with their own flag.

Commissioning pennants were once very important in their role as signals and thus needed to be seen from great distance. Flown from the main mast during the 18th and 19th centuries, they usually exceed ten feet in length, with some reaching as long as one hundred feet. As WWI approached (U.S. involvement 1917-18), the function of commission pennants leaned away from identification and more toward ceremony and custom. Soon after the largest measured two-and-a-half inches on the hoist by six feet on the fly, which still hold true today.

Early on, commission pennants had a number of stars equal to that of the national flag. As more and more states joined the Union, however, it became impractical to use the full complement of stars, especially on smaller examples. During the mid-late 19th century, many substituted 13 stars for the full count, to reflect the original colonies. This mirrored the star count used by the Navy on most Stars & Stripes flags flown on small craft. U.S. Navy "small boat ensigns," as they are called, most often had 13 stars.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the smallest commission pennants can occasionally be found with just 7 stars. By WWI, all seem to share the 7-star count.

According to the U.S. Navy, the reason for the use of 7 stars was not recorded. I once suspected this the number might reference the "Seven Seas," though this is an ancient term and geographers disagree on the precise meaning. The number may just as likely represent what seemed like a logical design choice when the overall length was substantially shortened.

Note how the stars appear in two sizes on this example, with 3 larger, followed by 4 smaller. Graduation of star sizes on pennants with a 7-star count varies from one-to-the-next. Some display 4 larger stars, followed by 3 smaller one, and some display all in the same size.

The body of the flag is made of wool bunting that has been pieced with lineal, machine-stitching, The stars are made of cotton and are double- appliqu├ęd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag, machine stitch. There is a trapezoid-shaped binding along the hoist with a single brass grommet. Made of hemp, or a flax and hemp blended fabric, the edge displays and interesting red stripe that allowed the maker to more easily cut lengths for hoist bindings. "No 5" is stenciled along the binding in black pigment. This was the Navy's own designation for size. Prior to 1899, this appeared on the U.S. Navy regulations as measuring .35 feet on the hoist by 25 feet on the fly. In 1899, the number 5 pennant was reduced to .25' on the hoist by 9 feet on the fly, which closely corresponds to the scale of this particular example. While I have bought and sold many examples, this was an interesting find. I have never before owned a 7-star, No 5 pennant.

Mounting: The pennant 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.

For ease of display and visual interest, we folded the textile back-and-forth in a zigzag fashion. The background fabric is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that was washed and treated for color fastness. The black-painted and gilded molding is Italian. A slight shadowbox was created to keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There are minor to moderate losses from mothing. These were underlaid with fabric of similar coloration, for masking purposes, during the mounting process. There is very minor foxing and staining in the stars. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age gracefully.
   
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 07
Earliest Date of Origin: 1898
Latest Date of Origin: 1915
State/Affiliation:
War Association: 1898 Spanish American War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com


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