Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 33" x 47"
Flag Size (H x L): 22" x 35.75"
Across antique American flags that date to the 19th century and prior, very few exist that pre-date the Civil War (1861-65). I often cite the percentage at around one percent. Within this small fraction, far fewer date to the 1840's and prior, and of those that actually do, most of these exceptionally rare survivors are very large in scale. Because ground forces were not authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until the mid-1830's and after, despite what we are led to believe by its appearance in Hollywood productions, the first war it was carried in was the Mexican War (1846-48). Because almost no flags survive from this conflict, the first appearance of flags in any number was the Civil War, and it was also at this time that use of the flag by private citizens gained popularity. Before 1861, flags were made primarily for ships and garrisons, and because their function was to serve as signals, necessary to be seen from great distance, they can easily be too large to display in an indoor setting, especially for a collector who wishes to display many flags.

This 13 star American national flag was made prior to the Civil War. Constructed sometime between roughly the mid-1820's and the 1840's, it falls among the earliest examples that one may ever expect to see in this star count. Entirely hand-sewn and made from an especially early variety of wool bunting, its stars are arranged in rows of 4-5-4. According to many historical records, as well as some surviving flags, this pattern was popular in the earliest periods of American history, present on some of our nation’s eldest flags.

Measuring just 22 x 36 inches, this is one of the tiniest flags of its kind that one will encounter. At a time where flags typically measured 8-feet on the fly and longer, small flags had little purpose. Although the Navy flew 13 stars flags on small craft through much of the 19th century--maybe its entirety--1854 regulations (the first I know of to specify sizes of small boat flags), listed nothing short of 6 feet. This was what could be expected for use on a small skiff, that transported sailors back-and-forth to shore from larger craft, on which the ensigns would have been far larger. 5-foot examples were small. I consider 4-footers tiny and a 3-footer, like this example, is next-to unheard of in a wool flag of this era.

The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over and under-hemmed, so that one appliquéd star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. This was a common method of applying the stars during this period. The canton and stripes of the flag are constructed of wool bunting with a coarse, homespun weave and with significant irregularity in the width of the strands. The wool is an early variety, with the appropriate characteristics that I have found to be indicative of the period between approximately 1820 and 1840, though it could be slightly earlier. The hand-sewn hoist binding is made of canvas. The feel and weave of this are, if not exceptionally remarkable, a bit unusual, and not what I typically see in Civil War flags. At the top and bottom are hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommets. A notation of "1 yd" was hand-inscribed with a dip pen, on the obverse, to indicate size. Markings of some sort were typically included by flag-makers, so that the size of flags could easily be assessed when folded. This particular notation appears in an early hand, indicative of the 18th and early 19th centuries. This is congruent with the rest of the flag's features that point to a pre-Civil War date.

Why 13 Stars?

13 star flags have been continuously produced throughout our nation’s history for purposes both patriotic and utilitarian. This was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the original 13 colonies, so it was appropriate for any flag made in conjunction with celebrations of American independence. 13 star flags were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s 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.

13 star flags were flown by American ships both private and federal. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on the ensigns made for small boats, because they wished the stars to be easily discerned at a distance. As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag so that they may be viewed from afar as individual objects. Because any star count that has previously been official remains so today according to the Congressional flag acts, all 13 star flags in an otherwise appropriate design remain official flags of the United States. 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 mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding.  The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Condition:  The overall condition is exceptional.  This was probably ship’s stores and never flown.  There is fracturing of the cotton fabric in one of the stars, a very small hole in the 5th white stripe, in the lower fly end quadrant, and there is modest oxidation in the hoist binding and the stars.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1820
Latest Date of Origin: 1840
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD

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