Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 16.5" x 20.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 7.75" x 11.75"
Fantastic and rare 37 star American parade flag, printed on silk. The stars are arranged in what is known as the "Great Star" pattern, in which one large star formation is configured from a group of smaller stars. Sometimes called the "Great Flower" or the "Great Luminary" pattern, the Great Star is generally considered to be the Rolls Royce of 19th century geometric designs among flag enthusiasts.

Great Stars take on many forms. This particular one is comprised of 25 stars in a star-shaped perimeter, surrounding 8 stars arranged in a decoratively interesting fashion. These form an ovoid shape at the bottom, which is capped by a truncated “T” formation. I have always felt that the configuration inside the Great Star resembles a bow-legged, stick figure of a person with arms outstretched. While I am fairly certain that this was not intended by the designer, the internal star formation is interesting and provides further artistic merit to the overall design. The Great Star pattern is made up of small stars that are all the same size, and is flanked by four larger stars, one in each corner of the brilliant royal blue canton.

Some Great Star parade flags of this period employ fewer stars in the center and instead place one between each arm of the larger star. This is certainly interesting from an academic standpoint, and sometimes from a visual one as well, but there is something to be said about the strong graphics of the one unencumbered big star against the rich, royal blue ground.

The Great Star configuration probably came about shortly before 1818, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 Naval hero, help to create the first official star pattern for the Stars & Stripes. The primary concern of ship captains was that the signal remained easily recognized on the open seas. The concept of placing all the stars in a star-shaped pattern would have kept the constellation in roughly the same format as the number of states grew and more stars were added, in a distinct design that could be quickly identified through a spyglass. Though the proposal was rejected by President Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in this manner, the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it. Its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven its desirability among collectors.

The 37th state, Nebraska, joined the Union on March 1st, 1867. The 37 star flag was official from that year until 1877, although it generally fell from use in 1875 or 1876 with the impending addition of more states. The 37 star-count is quite scarce in comparison to the flags that immediately preceded and followed it. This is due primarily to the lack of major patriotic events during the period they were used, which followed the Civil War, yet preceded the 1876 anniversary of American independence, and encompassed most of Southern Reconstruction. While the 37 star flag was still official in 1876, it was well known that at least one more state would be joining the Union that year. This caused flag makers to generally cease production in favor of 38 and 39 star flags, as well as 13 star flags to commemorate the 13 original colonies.

Even so, some 37 star flags survive with hand-inscribed or embroidered dates, that were evidently used in the fanfare of our nation's 100-year anniversary, and other textiles known to have been produced for that year specifically, are known to display the 37 star count. I have long presumed that some of those with more fanciful star configurations, such as the on e in question here, were produced specifically for that purpose.

Construction: Printed silk, hemmed with treadle stitching.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 155 cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The modern 3-part molding is constructed of wood, but has a finish that presents like antique iron and gunmetal. Spacers keep the textile away from the glass, which is U.V. protective.

Condition: Extremely minor foxing in the stripe field. More foxing in the canton, but difficult to distinguish in the blue ground and the stars are nearly unaffected. Excellent for the period.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 37
Earliest Date of Origin: 1867
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Nebraska
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD

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