|36 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH ITS STARS ARRANGED IN THE "GREAT STAR" PATTERN, ON A DUSTY BLUE CANTON, AND THE FLY END OF THE LAST STRIPE SOUVENIRED; MADE circa 1864-67, CIVIL WAR ERA; LIKELY BELONGING TO CAPTAIN H.R. JENNINGS OF THE 21ST CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEER INFANTRY, KILLED AT PETERSBURG
|Frame Size (H x L):||55.75" x 80.75"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||44" x 59.5"|
|36 star American national flag of the Civil War era, entirely hand-sewn and with some rare and beautiful features. The stars are arranged in a rendition of what is known as the Great Star or Great Luminary configuration, a large star made out of smaller stars. With no official star pattern before 1912, their design was left up to the artistic liberties of the flag-maker. Strikingly visual, the Great Star is both rare and coveted by flag collectors.
Nevada joined the Union as the 26th state on Halloween Day, October 31st, 1864. Lincoln pushed Nevada through to statehood on October 31st, 1864, during the Civil War, and just 8 days before the November election. 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. While the 36th star wasn't officially added until July 4th of the following year, some makers are known to have begun adding a 36th star as early as April of 1864, or even prior, 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.
While 36 star flags are rarely found with specific history to Civil War regiments, the flag is of a size that was popular for local groups and individuals to present to a Civil War unit as it headed off to war, or to replace a flag that was damaged or lost in the field. Note how approximately one-fifth of the last red stripe was clipped and removed at the fly end. [We placed fabric of similar coloration behind this area for masking purposes, during the mounting process.] What happened here was most certainly souveniring. Such careful trimming of the fabric provides evidence that small pieces of it were distributed to soldiers and officers at the end of the war. Though thought to be a common practice, I seldom ever encounter clear evidence of souveniring in flags that reach the antiques marketplace.
The name "H.R. Jennings" is stamped four times along the hoist binding in faded black or sepia ink, once between each pair of grommets. This would be the name of a former owner and it was common to mark flags for ownership, in one fashion or another, during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Presuming that this was the original owner, and that the flag was field-carried, only one of the sixty-one men by this surname, with the first initial “H,” seems to be a likely candidate. Of these, eighteen have no middle initial listed. Just two have the correct one. All within this collection of 20 have the rank of Private or Corporal save one, who happens to be one of the two H.R. Jennings.
Henry R. Jennings of Stonington, Connecticut mustered into “E” Company of the 21st Connecticut Volunteer Infantry at the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on September 5th, 1862. Wounded at Petersburg, Virginia, on September 29th, 1864, he died of his injuries shortly thereafter, on November 20th of that year. Although this was just 20 days following the addition of Nevada as the 36th state, I believe it likely that the flag was made considerably before, and presented to either himself or the regiment. Jennings died at the rank of Captain, which meant that he led E Company by this time, having risen two ranks over the two plus years since his enlistment. Further research is underway.
Brief History of the Great Star Pattern:
The Great Star configuration appears to have come about shortly after the War of 1812, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 naval hero, create a new design that would become the third official format for 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’s primary concern centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. His hope was that as more and more states joined the Union, and more and more stars were added to the flag, that it remain easily identifiable on the open seas. In 1818, Reid suggested to Congress that the number of stripes return permanently to 13, (reduced from 15,) 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 a spyglass, 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, no official design was designated, though the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it. Its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags on which it is present.
Construction: The canton and stripes of the flag are made of fine merino wool. Note how the canton has faded to a dusty, sea foam blue, which is endearingly attractive. The stars of the flag are hand-sewn and single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but also because they are more visually intriguing. The two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction, which is one reason why flags with single-appliquéd stars often appeal to connoisseurs of early American textiles.
There is a twill cotton sleeve along the hoist with five brass grommets, which is a peculiarly large number for any flag of this size. Most would have had only one at the top and bottom, though occasionally a third is included halfway between.
The combination of the beauty of this design and probable, Civil War, military history, results in a truly wonderful example of the period.
Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field. The flag was then hand-sewn to background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, which has been 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 flag was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: In addition to the souveniring of a portions of the last stripe and the fading of the blue fabric in the canton, described above, there is minor mothing in limited areas. There is a minor, stitched repair in the upper, hoist end corner of the canton, along the top edge. There is a minor stain in the canton, in the upper, fly end quadrant, beyond the stars, modest soiling along the hoist, and very minor soiling elsewhere, in limited areas. There are tiny tears along the hoist, possibly from points at which it was tacked to a staff or some other fixed point. There is minor loss from obvious use in the top, fly end corner. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age or history of use.
|Collector Level:||Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1864|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1867|
|War Association:||1861-1865 Civil War|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|