Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 13.5" x 33"
Flag Size (H x L): 2.5" x 70.75" (unfurled)
7 star, nautical, ship's commission pennant, made sometime in the period between WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-18) and WWII (U.S. involvement 1941-1945).

Commissioning pennants are the distinguishing mark of a commissioned U.S. Navy ship. A ship became commissioned when this pennant was hoisted. Flown during both times of peace and war, the only time the pennant is not flown is if a flag officer or civilian official is aboard and replaces it with their own flag.

Commissioning pennants were once very important in their role as signals and thus needed to be seen from great distance. During the 18th and 19th centuries, they usually exceed ten feet in length, with some reaching as long as a hundred feet. Sometime around 1910, the function of commission pennants leaned away from identification and more toward ceremony and custom. By WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-18) most ranged between just four feet in length and six feet (like this example). Today the largest commissioning pennants measure two-and-a-half inches by six feet.

Note that there are two sizes of stars, 4 larger and 3 smaller. This is typical of the form, but it is interesting to note that, according to the U.S. Navy, the reason for the choice of 7 stars was not recorded.

Early on, commission pennants had a number of stars equal to that on the national flag. As more and more states joined the Union, however, it became impractical to use the full complement of stars, especially on smaller examples. During the mid-late 19th century, many substituted 13 stars for the full count, to reflect the original colonies. This mirrored the star count used by the Navy on most of the Stars & Stripes flags that it flew on small craft. "U.S. Navy small boat ensigns," as they are called, most often had 13 stars.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the smallest examples sometimes displayed just 7 stars. By WWI, all shared the 7 star count. I once suspected this the number might reference the "7 Seas", though this is an ancient term and geographers disagree on the precise meaning. The number may just as likely have represented what seemed like a logical design choice when the overall length was substantially shortened.

This body of this particular pennant is made of wool bunting. The cotton stars are appliquéd with a zigzag, machine stitch. There is a sailcloth canvas binding along the hoist with a single, white metal grommet, along which “Comm. Penn.” Has been stamped in black ink, along with the numeral “6,” which in this case both indicates the size in feet and corresponds to the numeric designation in U.S. navy regulations for a “No. 6” pennant.

Mounting: The pennant was folded back-and-forth in an interesting zigzag fashion. It 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 background fabric is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The cove shaped molding has a very dark brown finish, almost black, with red undertones and highlights. To this a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding was added as a cap. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: Excellent, with one extremely minor stain in the white stripe.
Collector Level: Beginners and Holiday Gift Giving
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 33
Earliest Date of Origin: 1917
Latest Date of Origin: 1945
War Association: WW 2
Price: SOLD

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