Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags


Web ID: 13j-1585
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 27" x 36"
Flag Size (H x L): 16.25 x 25"
13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. They were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the centennial of American independence 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.

As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit their full complement on a small flag. The stars would, by necessity, have to become smaller, which made it more and more difficult to view them from a distance as individual objects. The fear was that too many of them close together would become as one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas. Keeping the count low allowed for better visibility. For this reason the U.S. Navy flew 13 star flags on small boats. Some private ship owners mirrored this practice and flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy.

Flag experts disagree about the precisely when the Navy began to revert to 13 stars and other low counts. Some feel that the use of 13 star flags never stopped, which seems to be supported by depictions of ships in period artwork. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states. Any American flag that has previously been official remains so according to the flag acts, so it remains perfectly acceptable to fly 13 star flags today by way of congressional law.

Since there was no official star configuration until the 20th century (1912 specifically, beginning with the 48 star count), the stars on 13 star flags may appear in any one of a host of configurations. Some of these are more rare and desirable than others. The stars of this particular flag are arranged in what has come to be known as the "3rd Maryland Pattern." This configuration, whether oval or circular, is appreciated both for its visual appeal and the scarcity of its use. a circular wreath of 12 with a single star in the center. The name comes from a flag that resides at the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis, long thought to have been present with General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781. According to legend, the flag was supposed to have been carried by Color Sergeant William Batchelor of the 3rd Maryland Light Infantry and was donated to the State of Maryland by Batchelor's descendants. The story was disproved in the 1970's, however, following an examination by the late flag expert Grace Rogers Cooper of the Smithsonian, who discovered that the Cowpens flag was, at the earliest, of Mexican War vintage (1846-48).

Despite the lack of direct association with the reputed regiment, many flag collectors and enthusiasts embraced the name "3rd Maryland" and it stuck to the design. The term actually received some legitimacy through the existence of a similar flag, in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History & Technology, with verified Maryland provenance. This was carried by the Maryland and District of Columbia Battalion of Volunteers during the Mexican War. While the configuration is known to be an early one, as evidenced by 18th century illustrations, this star pattern is most often encountered among surviving flags that date to the mid-19th century, roughly within the Mexican War to Civil War time frame (1846-1865). For some reason it seems to have not been quite as popular during our nation's 100-year anniversary, in 1876, but some examples of that period are known. It was also revived in small scale, commercially-produced flags during the 1890-1920's time frame.

Made around 1890, this particular example has beautifully hand-sewn stars. Made of cotton, these are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) and are presented in a circular version of the 3rd Maryland pattern. Note in particular impressive size of the size of the center star versus those around it, which adds a bold element to the overall presentation.

The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been joined with treadle stitching. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two brass grommets, along which the numeral “2” was applied with a black-painted stencil. Below this, faded, penciled inscription reads “1.00,” meaning one dollar, probably its original price.

Of great significance is the tiny size of the flag, when compared to others of this period, which adds considerable appeal. Prior to the last decade of the 19th century, printed parade flags (sometimes called hand-wavers) were generally three feet long or smaller, but flags with pieced-and-sewn construction were generally 8 feet long and larger. At this time, a flag that was 6-feet in length on the fly was considered small. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals, while today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism.

Even when commercial manufacture of smaller flags, generally having 13 stars, began around 1890-1895, almost all were in lengths of three and four feet on the fly. Almost no sewn flags were made a two-foot scale, like this example. Because the average 19th century sewn flag can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting, many collectors covet small sewn flags, like this one. The fact that the flag has hand-sewn stars compounds its rarity considerably.

Due to a combination of its star pattern, huge center star, size, and hand-sewn elements, this is a beautiful and very desirable example among 13 star flags of the 19th century.

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 flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a deep, cove-shaped molding with a very dark brown surface, nearly black, and a rope-style inner lip. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to inquire for more details.

Condition: There is significant fabric loss in the top stripe, especially towards the fly end, and there are two areas of moderate loss along the bottom stripe. There are minor to modest losses elsewhere. Period wool fabric of similar coloration was placed behind the flag during the mounting process. There is minor bleeding of the red dye into the white stripes, but not in an offensive manner. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age gracefully.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1895
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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