Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 8.5" x 10"
Flag Size (H x L): 2.75" x 4"
American national flag penwipe with 34 stars, executed in needlepoint from wool yarn, with black felt pages, decoratively bound, and with red, white, and blue silk tassels.

Penwipes were used to clean the tip of a dip pen during use, but decorative examples, like this one, probably seldom saw ink. They were produced as whimsies, for gift-giving purposes, and became treasured keepsakes. They were also readily adaptable for holding pins and needles, pierced into the felt pages, and in this way doubled as sewing kits.

Civil War era examples, like this one, were most certainly made for soldiers, to be carried off to war in remembrance of the loved one who made them. In this way they were Union Army counterparts to Bible flags, which were primarily a Southern phenomenon. Small enough to be slipped into a Bible, (sometimes after a fold or two,) these little flags were typically hand-sewn and made of silk, often with embroidered stars. They received this name because a pocket Bible was one of the only places on a soldier’s person that such a fragile and sentimental object could safely be stored, and they often doubled as a bookmark. Just like Northern penwipes, some bore corded tassels. One may note that this makes them not unlike modern bookmarks and, curiously, similar to Civil War battle flags, which had the same. Tassels also undoubtedly increase the graphic interest of the textile.

Executed in tiny cross-hatch stitches, like the remainder of the embroidery, the stars are arranged in justified rows in counts of 6-5-6-6-5-6, which is unusual for this star count. Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about 2 ½ months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but most flag makers would have added a 34th star with the addition of Kansas in January. The star count remained official until July 4th, 1863, and 34 star flags would have generally been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

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 gilded shadowbox frame dates to the period between 1820 and 1840 and is thus pre-dates the textile. Early, gilded shadowboxes moldings are exceptionally rare. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The glazing is U.V. protective museum glass.

Condition: There is modest foxing and staining and there is some breakdown in the decorative stitching around the pages.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Kansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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