Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  34 STARS IN 4 ROWS WITH 2 STARS OFFSET AT THE HOIST END, LIKELY A UNION ARMY CAMP COLORS, ONE OF ONLY THREE EXAMPLES I HAVE ENCOUNTERED IN THIS EXACT STYLE, OPENING TWO YEARS OF THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-1863, REFLECTS THE PERIOD WHEN KANSAS WAS THE MOST RECENT STATE TO JOIN THE UNION

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 33.75" x 55.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 32.5" x 45"
Description....:
34 star American national flag, printed on a wool and cotton blended fabric. The stars are arranged in 4 rows of 8, with 2 stars staggered beyond them at the hoist end of the blue canton. These roughly form two exaggeratedly long “C’s”, or perhaps "U's" for "Union". This rare arrangement was popular during the period of the 26-star flag (1837-1845), where it appears in 4 rows of 6 with 2 staggered to one side or the other, but it is seldom ever seen on flags with outside the 26-star count.

Note how the stars are canted at an angle, with one point directed roughly at 11:00. This is one of only three examples that I have encountered in this exact style. Flags with wool content are more durable than those printed on silk or cotton, and were appropriate for long-term outdoor use. Wool sheds water and was the best storm-worthy fabric available for flag-making in the 19th century. Printed wool flags eventually made their way to private use, but their initial role seems to have been for U.S. military purpose.

While this example has no known specific history, one of the others has military provenance and was taken home by a Pennsylvania soldier who enlisted to reinforce the army just before the Battle of Gettysburg. The size and construction are appropriate for use as a Union Army Camp colors and that was most certainly the purpose of its manufacture. Used during military drilling and to mark the perimeter of a unit's encampment, camp colors in Stars & Stripes format are surprisingly rare in the antiques marketplace.

During the 19th century, most military use flags were especially large. U.S. Army regulations specified that garrison flags were to measure 35 feet on the fly. Ship's flags typically ranged between 8 and 20 feet on the fly, with the smallest examples around 6 feet. Even infantry battle flags were huge by today's standards, at 6 x 6.5 feet. Generally speaking, flags needed to be large in order to serve their purpose as signals. The only varieties produced that were smaller, with any regularity, were guidons (marker flags for the organizing of military units), camp colors, and the occasional nautical flag produced for a pilot house or a tiny shift. Due to a combination of their conveniently displayable size, military function, and scarcity in this early period, these flags are highly desired.

Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about 2 ½ months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but most flag makers would have added a 34th star with the addition of Kansas in January. The star count remained official until July 4th, 1863, and 34 star flags would have generally been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

Construction: The canton and the field of stripes were printed on separate lengths of blended wool and cotton fabric. These were joined together with hand-stitching. The fly end of the striped field and the top edge of the canton were bound with hand-stitching. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist end with two hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommets.

It is of interest to note that a close variant of this design exists, with slightly different star orientation and with the two offset stars aligned at the fly end instead of the hoist. This style has the stars directed with all points facing upward and the entire flag is printed on a single length of fabric, as opposed to having a canton that was printed separately, then joined to the striped field.

Mounting: The flag was stitched to 100% natural fabrics throughout for support. It was then hand-sewn to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that was washed to remove 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 then placed in a substantial, gilded molding with a step-down profile, to which a flat profile liner, made of Caribbean mahogany, with black-painted surface, red undertones and highlights, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There are minor to modest losses throughout, accompanied by more significant losses near the fly end of the 2nd stripe and near the fly end of the last two stripes. There are areas of moderate staining in the center of the white field and towards the fly end, accompanied by more minor foxing and staining elsewhere. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Given its use, the wear is warranted, expected, and even desired.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Kansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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