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  39 TUMBLING STARS IN STAGGERED ROWS ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A GHOSTLY PRESENTATION FROM EXTENSIVE WEAR, MADE DURING THE ERA OF THE 1876 CENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, NEVER AN OFFICIAL STAR COUNT, REFLECTS THE ANTICIPATED ARRIVAL OF THE DAKOTA TERRITORY AS A SINGLE STATE

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 36" x 44"
Flag Size (H x L): 24.25" x 31.75
Description....:
39 star American parade flag, printed on thin cotton bunting. The stars are arranged in justified lineal rows of 6-5-6-5-6-5-6. Note how these are oriented on their vertical axis so that each has either a single point up or a single point down, alternating consecutively throughout. A length of herringbone cotton tape was folded over the hoist end and bound in place with treadle stitching. This was added for structural integrity when the flag was tacked to a wooden staff. The ends of the binding, now extending beyond the body of the flag, were once doubled over for reinforcement.

39 star flags were made at two different times in the late 19th century. The first were made in 1876 in anticipation of the addition of two new states, presumably Colorado and the Dakota Territory, which was to be added as a single state. Only Colorado gained statehood, however, on August 1st of that year, which brought the star count to 38. This meant that the 39 star flags produced at the time were inaccurate. Thirteen years later, 39 star flags were made once again with the anticipation of the addition of the Dakota Territory. On November 2nd, 1889, the Dakotas came in as two different states (North & South), taking the count to 40 and forever rendering 39 star flags both obsolete and unofficial.

This particular variety, which is very scarce, is known to have been made in the earlier of the two periods. I discovered an example of one rolled up with a group of both American and international flags, sold and marked by the Horstmann company in Philadelphia and surely made for the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition. This was our nation's first World's Fair, held in that city to honor the 100-year anniversary of American independence.

The flag was obviously flown for such an extensive period as to receive considerable wear. In some cases this can unsightly and thus undesirable. In others it can actually make the flag more visually interesting, reflecting precisely the sort of presentation that what one might expect from a flag that has been through a lot, endearing and at the same time almost ghostly. In this instance, the result is especially great in that regard. Finding one with this much wear, that has achieved this sort of look, as actually quite rare. Presumably this is due to the fact that once flags actually got to this point, they were almost universally discarded.

In some cases, flag makers may have saved the 1876 print designs for 39 star parade flags and used them again in 1889. In that circumstance, one may expect to see the same style produced in both periods. That in no way appears likely here, as so few exist in this style. It is also possible that some 39 star flags may have remained in the stock rooms of flag-makers and dry goods stores for more than a decade, to be brought out again when the actual addition of the 39th state once again loomed on the horizon. Because I have not encountered one with a hand-inscribed date, or any other reported specific history to 1889, 1876 is likely the only time this variety was made. In any case, the existence of 39 star flags is a classic display of both American capitalism and expansionist ideals for the growth of our nation.

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 historical flags and related objects and have framed thousands of examples. This is a pressure mount between 100% cotton twill and U.V. protective acrylic. The black fabric was washed and treated for color fastness. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding.

Condition: There are extensive losses throughout from extensive use, as well as some foxing and staining.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 39
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: North Dakota
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD
 

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