Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 28" x 35.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 17.25" x 24.5"
47 star American national parade flag, printed on cotton. This is one of four rare star counts from the late 19th/early 20th centuries, which include 40, 41, 43, and 47. Flags with a complement of stars in these counts were made in extremely scarce quantity, because they were accurate such a brief period. New Mexico became the 47th state on January 6th, 1912 and was followed by Arizona on February 14th. Per the Third Flag Act of 1818, Congress decreed that the official new year for the American flag was Independence Day, at which time a star would be added for each new state that had entered the Union over the preceding "flag year." Stars were thus added for the 47th and 48th states on July 4th, 1912. For this reason the 47 star count never became official and was accurate for a mere 38 days.

Despite the unofficial status and the narrow window in which we had 47 states, some commercial flag-makers did produce 47 star flags, either under special order for use in the celebration of New Mexico’s statehood, or in anticipation of the addition of the 47th state sometime prior to 1912. Since 1860 it had been common for flag-makers to add stars to the flag before territories had actually gained statehood. During the second half of the 19th century, flag-makers often cared far less about what was official and considerably more about what would sell. Unless they were producing flags under a specific contract, flag-makers would add a star as soon as the state was added, or beforehand in anticipation of the forthcoming change and a corresponding jump in the demand for new flags. In fact, at the time that 47 star flags were likely being made, some flag-makers had already been producing flags in the 48 star count for many years. Examples survive with overprinted dates as early as 1896. By this time a finite number of Western Territories remained and it was well known that all were destined for statehood. This fact would have further diminished the desire to produce 47 star flags, which makes them an even greater oddity.

Though a number of 47 star flags with sewn construction have surfaced--perhaps around thirty examples--47 star printed flags are extremely rare. I know of only 6 or 7 to exist, including this one, 5 of which I have had the privilege to own. This makes 47 the second-most rare star count in printed parade flags produced after 1859. Only 43-star parade flags are more rare. Two 47 star varieties are known. One of these, printed on silk, is very small, and, at first glance it is almost indiscernible from 45, 46, and 48 star flags. Finding one in a stack would require counting the stars. An example of this style is documented in "The Stars & The Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit" by J. Richard Pierce (2005), p. 20. A second of the same type may exist. I seem to recall one that came available in the marketplace which was, quite sadly, in deplorable condition.

The other variety is represented by this unusual flag, which is significantly larger and especially peculiar among printed flags with lineal rows. In this period, flags with staggered rows are common, but I have never before seen one that uses repeating rows of the same number, then subtracts two stars from one row, leaving an especially large gap. On this flag, note the odd, last row of five stars, which is two stars short of the others.

Commercial flag-makers usually tackled these designs in a more logical fashion. The configurations were either geometrically balanced, or left blank spaces obviously open for territories that were soon thought to become states. The latter what we call "notched" patterns, but even when there are multiple "notches," they are not big enough to accommodate 2 stars next to one-another. This design has no overall balance. In addition, adding two stars to the bottom row would result in a total count of 49, when only one more Western Territory remained. No one seemed to have been anticipated Alaska or Hawaii at this early date, nearly 50 years before they gained statehood.

Still, the design is visually intriguing. The imbalance bestows a modern art feature, making it difficult for the eye to focus on the overall pattern and setting it apart from other flags of the same period. Five flags exist in this style. At least three of them were discovered in Canada and logic suggests that they may have been produced there, either for the American market or for an event in Canada that required American flags. This might explain such unusual features.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, that was 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 then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass.

Condition: There is moderate staining in one of the stars. There is minor foxing and staining elsewhere. There are small tack holes along the hoist end, where the flag was once affixed to its original staff. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Further, the extreme scarcity warrants almost any condition.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 47
Earliest Date of Origin: 1912
Latest Date of Origin: 1912
State/Affiliation: New Mexico
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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