Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 27.5" x 33.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 17" x 23"
In all of flag collecting, one of the most rare and sought-after designs is this one, in which the stars are arranged to form the word “FREE”. It could be argued that there is no better star pattern and no style of flag that so blatantly captures the spirit of the anti-slavery movement and the Civil War, as well as the intent of our nation's forefathers to be free of religious persecution, free from rule of the British monarchy and other condemnations.

This style of flag is known to have been used by incumbent President Abraham Lincoln in his 1864 campaign. It appears in two varieties, one of which has 35 stars and the other 36. Across both star counts, only eight flags are known to exist in total, of which this is one. Among these, five of the flags have a count of 35 stars, while three have 36 stars. The two styles are effectively the same, except that the 35 star version lacks an oddly placed and slightly larger star outside the basic pattern, beneath and behind the word "FREE". Called an "outlier", this extra star was an easy way to update the print block without a complete redesign.

This 35 star example is one of just two that are recorded in major text on flag collecting. Formerly in the collection of Peter Keim, it is pictured in his book "A Grand Old Flag" (D.K. Publishing, New York, 2007), on p. 101. The other is documented in “Threads of History”, by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (Smithsonian Press, 1979), as item 334 on p. 172, as well as in "Running for President, The Candidates and Their Images, 1789-1896" by Schlesinger, Israel, and Frendt, (1994, Simon & Schuster), on p. 276. The Collins/Frent example has a large overprint that reads "Lincoln and Johnson."

One of the 36 star examples was actually signed by Lincoln himself in the white stripe below the blue canton, adjacent to a notation penned by the flag's owner with the date "July 4th, 1864". This was 4 months prior to the actual addition of the 36th state. The 35 star versions most certainly pre-date those with 36 stars and so would have presumably been created before that date.

Within the FREE flags that survive in the 35 star count, two sizes are known. This is not only the larger of the two, but is decidedly better proportioned and more visual. Just one other exists in this exact form.

Only four styles of flags are presently known in which the stars spell out letters or numeric characters. The others spell "1776 - 1876" with a combination of 38 and 42 stars, respectively, "US" with 44 stars, and "USA" with 48 stars. Those that spell "FREE" are the earliest among them.

Across printed parade flags, none are more widely sought after than those pertaining to the two campaigns of Abraham Lincoln. There are more rare flags, such as those made for Horace Greeley, Winfield Scott, or Millard Fillmore, among which scarcely any examples have survived. There is, however, no 19th century American personality so beloved as Lincoln, and no series of historical events more rigorously studied than the struggle for American freedom vs. States Rights, and the resulting Civil War.

Due to the rarity of the design, the use during a campaign of one of America's most beloved presidents, and the fact that the message, spelled out in the stars, resonates so clearly with American patriotism, this is one of the greatest 19th century examples that exists in flag collecting.

Mounting: The textile was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert trained staff. It was hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that was washed and treated for color fastness.

The paint-decorated and gilded American molding is one of the best I have ever seen. With Hicks-style cornerblocks and an Adirondack feature of rows of logs around the perimeter, I have never seen another in this style, which has tremendous folk qualities. The black painted surface is exceptional. Note the white metal buttons in each corner. The frame dates to the period between roughly 1860 and 1880. The glazing is Optimum Museum Plexiglas (crystal clear but glare-reducing, U.V. protective, and scratch-resistant). Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is some fabric loss along the white portion of the hoist end, where the flag was once affixed to a wooden staff and there is a small area of fabric loss with associated breakdown in the 4th white stripe, near the fly end. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind these areas during the mounting process. There are small tack holes in the blue canton where the flag was affixed to the staff. There is minor to moderate pigment loss in the red-orange stripes, most significant at the fly end and along the bottom stripe. A tiny amount of light color restoration was undertaken in the first three red stripes, utilizing a reversible medium that lies on top of the fibers. The sum of these areas with equal less than the size of a quarter. There is modest to moderate foxing and staining throughout the white portions of the flag. There are tiny holes in limited areas. The flag presents beautifully. The extreme rarity well-warrants practically any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 35
Earliest Date of Origin: 1864
Latest Date of Origin: 1864
State/Affiliation: West Virginia
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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