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  13 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A BEAUTIFUL MEDALLION CONFIGURATION OF STARS; A SMALL-SCALE EXAMPLE, MADE CIRCA 1895-1926

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 36.25" x 48.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 25.25" x 37"
Description....:
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 zigzag machine stitch. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two white metal grommets.

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 to modest soiling, the most significant of which is towards the fly end. There is minor bleeding in the white stripes, also near the fly end. There is a small beach spot in the canton, next to the star in the upper, fly end corner. There is modest mothing throughout. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind the flag, during the mounting process, for masking purposes and to strengthen the color against the black ground. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Beginners and Holiday Gift Giving
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1895
Latest Date of Origin: 1926
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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