Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 40.25" x 57"
Flag Size (H x L): 27.75" x 45"
34 star American national flag with a number of both visual and especially desirable features. Chief among these are the stars and the flags unusual size. Meant to be arranged in rows, the star placement is so haphazard that they appear almost random. Tipped this way and that on their vertical axis, note also how the arms of the stars are bent in various directions. The combination of these factors lends a substantial degree of folk quality and movement that results in an especially graphic presentation.

The stars are hand-sewn, made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). The stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting. These are joined with hand-stitching throughout. The blue canton, also of wool bunting, is hand-stitched along the lower edge to the striped field, and is treadle sewn along the fly edge. There is a coarsely woven binding along the hoist, probably made of blended flax and hemp, with two brass grommets. This was joined to the flag with treadle stitching. The grommets were added at a later date, which, while occasionally encountered, is especially unusual. While grommets appear in many Civil War period flags, this one originally had an open sleeve and was affixed to a wooden staff with metal tacks. This provides evidence that the flag was probably hand-carried, perhaps as a military flank-marker or general guide flag or as camp colors. Though the measurements do not conform to military regulations, the scale would work for such use and there was a tremendous amount of variation across thousands of Union Army companies. It would also be of an appropriate size to mark the headquarters of an officer.

The flag is very likely to have either been made in a small, cottage industry setting, or perhaps in a military one, in a garrison or aboard ship, where appropriate flag-making materials were available and flags were produced as dictated by need. The maker was perhaps not an expert in appliqué work, but was familiar enough with the task and skilled at stitching, though his/her inexperience in flag-making is readily apparent. Evidence of this is present in the crude placement of the stars and the sewing of the seams, which are frayed in places from improper seam structure. These attributes actually add to the list of elements that accentuate its early appearance, as do the tears and losses in the canton that were carefully repaired by darning. Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about 2½ 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 been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

Adding to the flag's appeal is its tiny scale among those with pieced-and-sewn construction. During the 19th century, sewn flags (as opposed to those that were printed on cloth) were typically eight feet long and larger. This is because they were important in their function as signals, meaning that they needed to be seen and recognized from great distance. A flag that was six feet in length was considered small and production of flags smaller than this was extremely limited. Even infantry battle flags were approximately six by six and-one-half feet, about the size of an average quilt of the same period.

As time passed, circumstances changed and sewn flags began to find more of a decorative purpose. It wasn't until the 1890’s that manufacturers began to produce smaller sewn flags in great quantity. These employed a count of 13 stars, as opposed to the full star count, due to the greater ease in interpreting their shape at a distance on a small field (a practice long maintained by the U.S. Navy). Production of these continued into the 1920’s, but during the same era, flags were not normally produced with pieced-and-sewn construction that bore the full complement of stars. The same was true prior to 1890, save in much smaller quantity. Flags smaller than five feet, when they were made at all, would usually have 13 stars. Those with a count that reflected the number of states at the time of manufacture were few and far between. Both of these circumstances, meaning a combination of the small size of this example—at 2 feet 4 inches by 3 feet 9 inches--and the fact that it contains the complete star count, adds considerable interest. Collectors prefer small smaller flags because they are easier to frame and display.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed in 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 mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic. The background is black cotton twill.

Condition: The flag was definitely flown, as evidenced by the tears and hand-darned repairs. In addition to the presence of these in the canton, there are a few tiny holes and losses in the stripes. There are rust stains along the binding, where metal tacks once affixed it to a staff, and there is minor to modest foxing and water staining on the binding and elsewhere. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
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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