Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  ANTIQUE AMERICAN PRIVATE YACHT FLAG (ENSIGN) WITH 13 STARS SURROUNDING A CANTED ANCHOR, CIRCA 1910 – 1920’s

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 32.5" x 42.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 20" x 30"
Description....:
The medallion configuration, 13-star, 13-stripe flag with a canted center anchor was entered into official use in 1848, following an act of Congress, that made it the official signal for U.S. pleasure sailing vessels. The need for such a flag arose with the popularity of boating as a pastime for well-to-do Americans, and as a competitive sport, in addition to its longstanding utilitarian role as a vehicle of trade. In early America, all boats were subject to customs searches at every port. Without modern income tax, the federal government derived its revenues mostly from tariffs, so an accounting of foreign goods on ships was a critical venture. As yachting for pleasure became more prevalent, however, more and more time was spent searching boats that had no such inventory, wasting time for both customs officials and wealthy ship owners.

John Cox Stevens, a former president of the Jockey Club and future founder of the Union League Club in New York City, became the New York Yacht Club’s Commodore upon its founding in 1845. In 1847, he approached the secretary of the treasury and suggested that something be done to streamline the customs process for non-trade vessels. In 1848, legislation passed Congress requiring registration of these boats, which could then fly the “American Yachting Signal” to bypass customs. This remained on the books until the 1980’s, when the 1848 legislation was revoked, but the use of flags in this design for decorative function continues to this day.

The canton and the stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with machine stitching. The stars and anchor are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag machine stitch. This type of stitch was patented for use on flags in 1892, quickly became the most common way to appliqué stars, and remained so until after WWII (U.S. involvement 1941-45). There is a sailcloth canvas binding along the hoist, with two white metal grommets, along which black, inked stencils appear that read “100% New Wool” and “Yacht Ensign.” Remnants of early twine are in each grommet.

I have never before encountered the label “new wool” and am not certain of its intent. Perhaps some makers of wool flags were known to repurpose used bunting from old flags, or the makers of wool bunting were known to use old stock of wool fibers that were no longer suitable for clothing grade fabric. Or perhaps this was merely a gimmick. Whatever the case may be, it is a curious mark.

Note the unusually narrow and shapely profile of the anchor, which is especially attractive.

13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. In addition to their use on private yachts, they were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s final visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the nation’s centennial in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians while campaigning for the same reason. The U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats until 1916, because it was easier to discern fewer stars at a distance on a small flag. Commercial flag-makers mirrored this practice and some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own textile conservation department, which is led by expert trained 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 on every seam and throughout the star field for support. The background is 100% hemp fabric or a hemp and cotton blend (we use both interchangeably.) The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is some soiling along the hoist and corrosion around the grommets, but the overall condition is otherwise excellent.
Collector Level: Beginners and Holiday Gift Giving
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1910
Latest Date of Origin: 1920's
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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