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  WWII VINTAGE ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH 48 STARS AND ENDEARING WEAR FROM OBVIOUS LONG-TERM USE, A U.S. NAVY SMALL BOAT ENSIGN, MARKED "No. 11, DATED “1943,” MADE AT MARE ISLAND, CALIFORNIA, HEADQUARTERS OF THE PACIFIC FLEET

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 38.5" x 63"
Flag Size (H x L): 26.5" x 51"
Description....:
48 star, U.S. Navy small boat ensign, made during WWII (U.S. involvement 1941-45) at Mare Island, California, Headquarters of the Pacific Fleet. A black stencil along the hoist on the reverse side reads as follows: "U.S. Ensign No. 11; Mare Island; Apr 1943." While U.S. involvement in the Second World War (1941-45) necessitated the acquisition of flags from many sources flags, the Navy had long made their own flags at several locations, of which this was one.

Ensign is simply a term for the primary flag from a ship. "No. 11" is a size designation for a small boat flag that, per U.S. Navy Regulations of 1914, was to measure 2.37 x 4.5 feet. Extensively flown, this one has lost some of its original length, but at 26.5” on the hoist, this particular flag is near to those specifications in height. In my experience, slight variation was the norm.

The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting of a notably heavy weight and pieced with machine stitching. The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag machine stitch. There is a heavy canvas binding along the hoist, with four brass grommets. The general manner in which the flag is made, with higher grade fabrics and uncommonly stout construction, is indicative of U.S. Navy flags of the WWI-WWII era.

The 48 star flag became official in 1912 following the addition of New Mexico and Arizona. It remained the official flag throughout WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-18), WWII (U.S. involvement 1941-45), and the Korean War (1950-53), until Alaska gained statehood in 1959 and the 49th star was added.

Located on the western edge of the City of Vallejo, about 23 miles northeast of San Francisco, Mare Island (actually a peninsula) served as a principal seat of U.S. Navy defense, beginning in the mid-19th century. The site was originally chosen following an expedition that set forth in 1850, when Commodore John Drake Sloat was ordered to lead a survey party in quest of a logical site for the nation's first Pacific naval installation. Sloat recommended the island across the Napa River from the settlement of Vallejo; it being "free from ocean gales and from floods and freshets." On November 6th of that year, two months after California was admitted to statehood, President Fillmore reserved Mare Island for government use. The U.S. Navy Department acted favorably on Commodore Sloat's recommendations and Mare Island was purchased in July, 1852, for the sum of $83,410 for the use as a naval shipyard. Two years later, on September 16th of 1854, Mare Island became the first permanent U.S. naval installation on the West Coast, with Commodore David G. Farragut serving as Mare Island's first base commander.

The base became home to what was known as the Pacific Fleet, and remained so until the threat of Japanese expansionism caused the shift to a more advanced position at Pearl Harbor. It was very active in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, but would eventually close in 1993 after Congress approved the findings of the Base Realignment and Closure Report.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support on every seam and throughout the star field. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 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 black-painted and hand-gilded Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas.

Condition: There is significant fabric loss at the fly end from obvious long-term use. There is modest to moderate soiling in the stars and along the hoist binding, accompanied by some significant staining at and near the top of the hoist binding, plus a bit at the extreme bottom. There is a minor mothing in the canton, as well as the 1st and the 6th-13th stripes. All of the above is expected from a Navy flag that was actually flown, especially during wartime. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use, especially when they present well, like this example.
Collector Level: Beginners and Holiday Gift Giving
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 48
Earliest Date of Origin: 1943
Latest Date of Origin: 1943
State/Affiliation: California
War Association: WW 2
Price: SOLD
 

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