|ANTIQUE AMERICAN PRIVATE YACHT FLAG (ENSIGN) WITH 13 STARS SURROUNDING A CANTED ANCHOR, AN ATTRACTIVE, ELONGATED EXAMPLE WITH AN OFF-SET DEVICE, CIRCA 1905 – 1920
|Frame Size (H x L):||Approx. 35.5" x 52.5"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||24.25" x 41.25"|
|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 This remained on the books until the 1980’s, when the 1848 legislation was revoked, but the use of flags in this design for decorative function continues to this day.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. A penciled inscription near the top reads “3 ½ x 2 ft.”
Made sometime between roughly 1905 and 1920, the elongated form of this particular example is especially attractive, as-is the nicely proportioned anchor. Note the off-center placement of the wreath of stars and device, which adds an interesting folk quality to the design and helps to convey its age.
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 background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that was washed and treated for color fastness. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.
Condition: There is minor soiling in the white stripes and along the hoist and there is minor mothing in the striped field. There are early darning repairs in the 1st and in the 8th-10th stripes. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
|Collector Level:||Beginners and Holiday Gift Giving|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1905|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1920|
|State/Affiliation:||13 Original Colonies|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|