|21 STARS IN A “GREAT STAR” OR “GREAT LUMINARY” PATTERN, A SOUTHERN-EXCLUSIONARY STAR COUNT ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN PARADE FLAG OF THE CIVIL WAR PERIOD, SIGNED BY THE MAKER, ONE-OF-A-KIND AMONG KNOWN EXAMPLES
|Frame Size (H x L):
|33 x 46.5"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|21.25" x 35.25
|21 star antique American flag, printed on cotton. The stars are arranged in what is known as the “Great Star” or “Great Luminary” pattern—one large star, made out of smaller ones. Great Star patterns vary widely in the way that they are assembled. In this case the configuration is comprised of one large central star, oriented with one point facing upward, around which is a a pentagon of stars, one between each arm. This forms the base for the triangular formation of three stars that complete each arm.
At the beginning of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln fervently urged the American people not to remove the stars from the flag that represented the states that were succeeding from the Union. He felt strongly that there was great need to demonstrate that he had not written off those Americans living in the South who did not support the ideals of Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy. He also sought to demonstrate to both the nation and the world that American was still a unified body, and that he would do everything in his power to ensure Union victory.
Despite Lincoln’s pleas, there were some who did as they wished with regard to the number of stars on the Stars & Stripes, removing those that represented Southern states. The 21 stars on this particular flag represent a count that could have theoretically been chosen for that purpose at more than one time during the course of the war. The more likely of these scenarios occurred in late 1861, following Jefferson Davis’ admission of the Border States of Missouri and Kentucky into the Confederate States of America (CSA). Between late 1860 and early 1861, 7 slaveholding Southern States (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas) voted for secession. Although, technically, each state seceded on a different day, these 7 states are considered to have left the Union together on February 8th, 1861, in what was known as the “first wave of secession.” This was the day that the provisional constitution of the CSA was adopted, at the first secessionist convention in Mobile, Alabama. Between the months of April and June of that year, these were followed by Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. While the order of these additional 4 states is arguable, they did secede in a formal, legislative manner. This brought the official total to 11.
Events in the Border States were a bit different. On August 19th , 1861, the Confederate Congress signed a treaty with the State of Missouri. Then, on October 28th or 31st [accounts differ], a rump Missouri congress, consisting solely of Southern-supporting members, called into session by Southern-leaning governor, C.F. Jackson, approved secession. Although the corresponding ordinance was never presented to the people of the for a vote, Jackson sent the paperwork on to the Confederate capitol, in Richmond. On November 28th, 1861, noting that the state’s level of commitment had reached what he felt was a critical level, Jefferson Davis formally admitted Missouri as the 12th Confederate State.
Kentucky soon followed. While the state attempted to maintain neutrality, an invasion of Southern troops prompted them to call upon Union forces to drive out the Confederate Army. On November 20th, 1861, while in a state of unrest, the people of Kentucky formed a group styling itself as a “Convention of the People of Kentucky”. With 200 participants representing 65 counties, the group voted in favor of secession and, on December 10th, Davis admitted Kentucky as number 13. It is for this reason that most Confederate Southern Cross battle flags display 13 stars.
Between the opening of the war, in April of 1861, and June of 1863, there were 34 states in total. This number, less the official Confederate total of 13, means that the count of pro-Union States was 21.
The second most likely scenario to reach this star count was present between Halloween of 1864 and the war’s close. By one measure, this technically occurred when the last Confederate general surrendered on May 26th, 1865. During this approximate 7-month period, there were 36 states. West Virginia had become the 35th on June 20th, 1863, just before the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1st-3rd), when it broke off from Virginia and entered the Union as a Free State. Nevada became number 36 on October 31st, 1864, when it was ushered in by Abraham Lincoln just 8 days before his re-election, motivated by the political benefits of its Republican-supporting electoral votes, as well as the state’s wealth in silver and its potential contribution to wartime debt. 36 states in total, less the number of Slave States (15)—which some would consider the correct Confederate number, votes, ratifications, and acceptances aside—also equals 21.
On the obverse (front), below the stars, the name of the maker, “I.A. Heald” is printed in relief in the blue canton. Maker’s marks are extremely rare on printed parade flags. Born in or about 1840, probably in the Lowell - Carlisle -Concord region of Massachusetts, or the greater Portland area in Maine, Heald was a bit difficult to research. A talented musician and machinist, as well as a professor (school yet to be identified), he patented numerous objects and lived in several states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington, DC, California, and possibly Maine.
Although of a rather ideal age for Civil War service, Heald was a member of the American Brass Band & Orchestra of Rhode Island. Founded around 1837, in 1853, by a special act of the Rhode Island General Assembly, band members (salaried by the state) were thereafter exempt from military service and jury duty, so long as they met certain requirements. Heald may have joined sometime in the 1850’s, but I found no specific records of him until 1861, when he left for Washington on April 15th with the band, as a civilian attached to the First Rhode Island Regiment. In doing so he signed on to such service for a term of three months. He was discharged from the band while in D.C. Soon after the regiment fought at the First Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, Virginia. Though this was a Union defeat, no band members sustained injury.
In 1862, Heald submitted a patent for a cigar maker. Sometime during this era, he became the leader of his own band. In 1869, “Heald’s American Brass Band” was contracted by the Grand Army of the Republic (the G.A.R., the primary organization for Union Civil War veterans), to play at Arlington National Cemetery while orphans of Civil War soldiers placed flowers on the grave of the Unknown Soldier. The G.A.R. created Memorial Day in 1868, so this was its second occurrence.
As for his other profession, the Cloverdale California “Reveille” newspaper, January 6th, 1883 edition, attests to his trade with an article entitled “A Handy Workman,” describing him in this fashion:
“Mr. I.A. Heald, machinist, 111 First street in this city, is an artisan of the right stamp—a man of “good mettle” and “true ring.” His work is ditto. We have known him for many years and can recommend him fully. The “Washington City Cornicle” describes Mr. Heald’s shop in that city in the following happy manner: “We were truly amazed at the skill being there displayed. Models of the most intricate character, machines composed of many parts, and of various kinds of metals and wood—all when set in motion, working smoothly and in perfect order. Every manner of tools are kept on hand with which to perform this difficult work. Models for patents and general machine jobbing are all executed, either in wood or metal, at short notice. Sewing machines, printing presses, musical instruments, and, in fact, anything composed of wood or metal, will be neatly and promptly executed under the immediate supervision of Mr. Heald himself, he having had a large experience at the Washington Navy Yard, and in other cities. Mr. Heald is also an accomplished musician of the American Brass Band—Scientific Press.”
It’s clear that I.A. Heald was a fervent patriot and traveled extensively. The June 24th, 1881 copy of the Portland, Maine Daily Press describes his attendance at the National Camp (conclave meeting) of the Patriotic Order Sons of America (P.O.S. of A.), with a rank of “Inspector.” Founded in Pennsylvania in 1847, this was a fraternal organization that listed its function as serving to “preserve the Public School System, The Constitution of the United States, and our American way of life.” Its origin was in the midst of the nativist movement in America, which sought to curb the influx of Irish Catholic immigrants who were rapidly taking jobs of other members of the working class. An anti-Catholic poem entitled “Popery,” published by Heald in the February 13th, 1875 issue of a San Francisco journal called “Common Sense,” substantiates his nativist views.
Although I was unable to find his parents, place of birth, death records or obituary, or U.S. Census records, he was alive as late as June 10th, 1896, when he listed himself as “I.A. Andrews Heald,” a Massachusetts resident, aged 66, living at 1321 K Street in Sacramento, CA. Many members of the Heald family from both Massachusetts and Maine were military men. Arriving in America in the 17th century, they were both colonial British military and, during and after the Revolutionary war, state militia. Though I.A. Heald appears not to have served, his tendency towards patriotic fervor is evident.
The 21 star parade flag with Heald’s mark is block printed in the usual fashion common across cotton parade flags of the time. Given his skill with wood and metal, the carving of wood blocks for use in parade flag production would have been extraordinarily easy for Heald. I expect that he made and distributed the flag as part of a run of like flags in 1861, either for the band or for the P.O.S. of A., or perhaps both. It is of interest to note that the number 21 was actually very significant to the P.O.S. of A., as it also represented the number of years that the organization, and other like entities, such as the Know-Nothings and the Native American Party, designated as the number of years necessary for naturalization as a citizen. The fear of Irish Catholics taking over elections in Philadelphia and New York was met with significant resistance. Although the participants may change, some issues never do.
This is the only flag I know to exist in this form, and no others have been found with Heald’s signature, so far as I am aware.
21 star flags that date to the 19th century are rare in any form. Illinois joined the Union as the 21st state on December 3rd, 1818. The 21 star flag became official on July 4th, 1819 and remained so for just one year. Examples dating to this early period are so few in number that only a small handful survive, certainly fewer than 10. Even the state of Illinois does not own an example of this period. Production would have been miniscule, due to both the early time frame, before infantry was authorized to carry the flag and before private individuals generally displayed it, as well as the very brief duration in which it was either accurate or official. As with other star counts that were sometimes, for a myriad of reasons, produced after America had that specific number of states, flags such as the one that is the subject of this narrative tend to appeal to persons from the state to which the number relates, in spite of it having any likely relationship to that state specifically. To this degree, 21 star flags of any early period, due to their scarcity, are of interest to those with some kinship in the period of Illinois statehood. The fact that this particular flag has such an interesting story lends to the entire package, if you will, of historical interest.
Some Notes About the Great Star Pattern:
In the world of antique American flags there are nearly countless star patterns, but most have lineal rows or columns. Some have circular designs, which are further down the rarity scale. The Great Star is far more scarce and is highly coveted due to both its rarity and strong visual qualities. The concept of arranging the stars in this fashion seems to have come about shortly after the War of 1812, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 naval hero, create a new design that would become the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Reid became harbor master of New York following the war. During his lifetime, he created many innovations in signal use, including a system that could actually send messages from New York to New Orleans by sea in just two hours.
Use as a Naval signal had been the primary reason for the initial creation of an American national flag in 1777, but since there was no official star design, the appearance of our flag varied greatly. Reid’s primary concern centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. His hope was as more and more states joined the Union and more and more stars were added to the flag, that this important signal would remain easily identified on the open seas. In 1818, Reid suggested to Congress that the number of stripes permanently return to 13 (reduced from 15) and that the stars be grouped into the shape of one large star.
Reid’s proposal would have kept the star constellation in roughly the same format, in a pattern that could be quickly identified at a distance as the number of states grew. His concept for the stripes was ultimately accepted, but his advice on the star pattern was rejected by President James Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in the fashion. Monroe suggested a simple pattern of justified rows, but did not issue an official deign, so the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it. Its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags with this configuration.
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 presentation of flags and have preserved thousands of examples.
The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The background fabric is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: There is modest to moderate fading of the blue and red-orange pigments. There is a series of holes and associated rust stains and oxidation along the hoist, where the flag was once attached to a wooden staff, and there is a series of repeating losses down the stripes, caused by the metal tacks when the flag was rolled. There is modest to significant fabric breakdown and pigment loss in the striped field, getting more significant toward the fly end. Oxidation throughout likewise gets more significant towards the fly. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Further, its rarity and desirability, as the only known exclusionary flag in this style, warrants practically any condition.
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|1861-1865 Civil War
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