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  33 STARS IN AN INTERESTING VARIATION OF THE "GREAT STAR" CONFIGURATION, MADE FOR THE 1860 CAMPAIGN OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN & HANNIBAL HAMLIN, WITH WHIMSICAL SERPENTINE TEXT

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 19.5" x 24.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 10.75" x 17"
Description....:
33 star American parade flag, printed on cotton, made for the 1860 campaign of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin. Note the combination of the whimsical, Roman letters with their serpentine format and the beautiful variation of what is called the "Great Star" configuration, a large star made out of smaller stars.

Among printed parade flags, those made for the political campaign of President Lincoln are, collectively, the most desired. On this particular flag, the words Lincoln & Hamlin are overprinted in black across the field of stripes. This means that the advertising was added to the flag after the red and blue were printed. This was standard practice, though some advertising flags have verbiage (as well as symbols and portraits) that are printed simultaneously with the blue pigment employed in the canton. Note the punctuation at the end of Hamlin's name. The inclusion of periods and commas in this general fashion, following names and/or in other locations that seems very odd today, was common in 19th century advertising.

Great Star designs take on many forms. In this particular example, note that there is a star between each arm of the large star and that there is a triangle of three stars in the very center. Among collectors, the Great Star represents the Rolls Royce of geometric star configurations. It is thought 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 configuration, the appearance of our flag varied greatly. Reid's primary concern centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. His hope was that as more and more states joined the Union, and more stars were subsequently added to the flag, that the design 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 through a spyglass 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 what would become known as the “Great Star”, “Great Flower”, or “Great Luminary” pattern. Monroe probably didn’t wish to impose this cost on either the government or civilians, so he suggested a simple pattern of justified rows. The Great Star was nevertheless produced by anyone willing to make it and its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags with variants of this beautiful design.

The 33rd state, Oregon, entered the Union on February 14th, 1859. The 33 star flag was official from 1859-1861, and was thus still the official flag when Ft. Sumter was fired upon, on April 12th of that year. This event marked the beginning of the Civil War and a 33 star flag was flying at Ft. Sumter during the attack. Because the 34th state, Kansas, had already acquired statehood on January 29th, 1861, flag makers knew that the 34 star flag would soon become official. For this reason, 33 star flags were not produced in great quantity for the war, which would last until 1865, and the 33 can be considered to be more of a pre-Civil war flag than a war-period flag. 33’s are considerably more rare than 34 and 35 star examples. Flags made prior to the Civil War comprise less than one percent of 19th century flags that have survived into the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. Private use of the national flag rose swiftly during the patriotism that accompanied the Civil War, then exploded in 1876.

Even the military did not use the flag in a manner that most people might think. The primary purpose before the Civil War was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark some garrisons, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment and a Federal standard. Most people would be surprised to learn that the infantry wasn’t authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until 1837. Even then it was neither required nor customary. It was not until the Civil War took place that most U.S. ground forces carried the national flag. An example of this flag is recorded in "Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth, 1775 to the Present," by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (1979, Smithsonian Press), item 295, p. 158. Collins formerly served as Curator of Political History at the Smithsonian Institution and his book is considered the foremost reference on American political textiles. Surviving examples of this particular style of Lincoln & Hamlin flag are significantly more rare than a very similar style that displays less whimsical lettering, with the characters all in upper case, and lacking the period after Hamlin. An example of the more prevalent variety is also pictured by Collins, on the same page, as item 296. It is interesting to note that Lincoln was hardly the favorite at the beginning of the campaign, winning the Republican nomination from the 3rd ticket. He then defeated John Bell (Constitution Party), John Breckinridge (Southern Democrat), and Stephen Douglas (Northern Democrat), to become the Republican party’s first president. Lincoln was elected with a mere thirty-nine percent of the vote and carried no state south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Hannibal Hamlin, our nation’s first Republican vice president, was born in Maine in 1809. He was an attorney who, in his political career prior to the White House, served as Chairman of the Maine State House of Representatives, as a U.S. Congressman and Senator, and as Governor of the State of Maine. He was a Democrat until 1856, but was an opponent to slavery. He did not run with Lincoln in the second campaign in 1864, but did return to the U.S. Senate from 1869-1881 and served as Minister to Spain from 1881-82.

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 exceptional American molding has a rippled profile and a gilded liner and dates to the period between 1830 and 1860. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton twill, black in color, that was washed and treated for color fastness. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass.

Condition: There is modest to moderate oxidation throughout in the white stripes and stars, the most significant of which is beneath the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th red stripes, and along the fly end of the striped field. Significant staining was present previously. Professional cleaning was undertaken with much success, followed by minor color restoration where necessary by way of a reversible medium. There was some pigment loss in the lettering where it overlaps the red stripes. Minor color restoration was also undertaken here with great care to define the profiles of the characters. This is present in portions of the letters "n," "c," and "o" in "Lincoln," portions of the letters in the word "and," and in the upper right arm of the letter "H" in Hamlin. There is fabric loss in the upper and lower corners of at the hoist end, carrying into the blue canton and the bottom red stripe. There are very minor holes and splits in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th white stripes, and at the fly end only in the 5th white stripe. Fabric of similar coloration was used as an underlay throughout. 19th century parade flag fabric was used for the red and blue. The flag presents beautifully and its rarity and desirability well-warrant its condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 33
Earliest Date of Origin: 1860
Latest Date of Origin: 1860
State/Affiliation: Oregon
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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