Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): approx: 35" x 47.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 23.5" x 36.25"
This 13 star antique American flag is of a type made during the last decade of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th. The stars are arranged in a medallion configuration that features a slightly larger center star, surrounded by a wreath of stars, with a flanking star in each corner of the canton.

The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with treadle stitching. The stars are made of cotton and double-appliquéd (applied to both sides of the flag) with a lineal treadle stitch. This is most common in flags made in the short period between 1890 and 1895. Before 1890, stars were commonly hand-sewn. Afterwards they were predominantly applied with a zigzag machine stitch.

Flag-makers began experimenting with appliqué work by treadle machine as early as the Civil War (1861-65), but it is only seen on approximately three to five percent of surviving 34 and 35-star examples, probably due to the difficulty of continually rotating the canton while tucking under the edges of the fabric on each star and pumping the treadle, all while trying to sew a straight line along the fine edges of each point. Use of the method had grown slightly by 1876, but is not encountered on any sizable percentage of flags until 1890. The lineal stitching of stars then promptly disappeared because the zigzag stitch, patented in 1892 for use on flags, allowed flag-makers to bind a rough-cut edge of fabric. This eliminated the need to fold the edges of the stars under, which led to an explosion of flag production. Lineal machine-stitching of stars is commonly seen on 44 star flags (1890-1896), but is far more scarce in 45 star examples (1896-1908).

There is a heavy canvas binding along the hoist, with two white metal grommets, along which numbers "2" and "3" were stenciled in blue ink, separated by a Maltese cross, (substituted for an “x”) to indicate size in feet.

Why 13 Stars? As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit their full complement on a small flag. The stars would, by necessity, have to become smaller, which made it more and more difficult to view them from a distance as individual objects. The fear was that too many stars would become one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas.

The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on its small-scale flags for precisely this reason. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states.

For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3 to 4 feet in length before the 1890's. There are exceptions to this rule, but until this time, the smallest sewn flags were typically 6 feet on the fly. The primary use had long been more utilitarian than decorative, and flags needed to be large to be effective as signals. Private use grew with the passage of time, however, which led to the need for long-term use flags of more manageable scale.

Beginning around 1890, flag-makers began to produce small flags for the first time in large quantities, namely with dimensions of 2 x 3 feet, like this example, and 2.5 x 4 feet. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, they chose the 13 star count rather than the full complement of stars for sake of ease and visibility. Any flag that has previously been official remains so according to the flag acts, so 13 star flags remain official national flags of the United States of America.

The 13 star count has been used throughout our nation's history for a variety of purposes. In addition to being flown by the Navy, 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, as well as for annual celebrations of Independence Day. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty, and were used by 19th century politicians in political campaigning. The use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding a fouled anchor, which allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs between 1848 and 1980, persists today without an official purpose.

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 flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support throughout. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric 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 mount was placed in black-painted, Italian molding of exceptional quality, with a gilded inner edge.

Condition: There is minor soiling, but the overall condition is excellent for the period.
Collector Level: Beginners and Holiday Gift Giving
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1895
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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