Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 55" x 87"
Flag Size (H x L): 43.25" x 75"
The medallion configuration, 13-star, 13-stripe flag with a canted center anchor was entered into official use in 1848, following an act of Congress, that made it the official signal for U.S. pleasure sailing vessels. The need for such a flag arose with the popularity of boating as a pastime for well-to-do Americans, and as a competitive sport, in addition to its longstanding utilitarian role as a vehicle of trade. In early America, all boats were subject to customs searches at every port. Without modern income tax, the federal government derived its revenues mostly from tariffs, so an accounting of foreign goods on ships was a critical venture. As yachting for pleasure became more prevalent, however, more and more time was spent searching boats that had no such inventory, wasting time for both customs officials and wealthy ship owners.

John Cox Stevens, a former president of the Jockey Club and future founder of the Union League Club, became the New York Yacht Club’s Commodore upon its founding in 1845. In 1847 he approached the secretary of the treasury and suggested that something be done to streamline the customs process for non-trade vessels. In 1848, legislation passed Congress requiring registration of these boats, which could then fly the “American Yachting Signal” to bypass customs. This remained on the books until the 1980’s, when the 1848 legislation was revoked, but the use of flags in this design for decorative function continues to this day.

The stars and anchor are made of cotton, are hand-sewn and single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but also because they are more visually intriguing. The two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction. For these reasons single-appliquéd stars often appeal to connoisseurs of early American textiles. The canton and the stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with machine stitching. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist, applied with treadle stitching. Along this, on the obverse, a maker's mark was added by way of a black stencil. This reads: "Annin & Co; 99 & 101 Fulton St. N Y." Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. The company was founded in the 1820's on the New York waterfront, incorporated in 1847, and, though it opened a large manufacturing operation in Verona, New Jersey in 1916, maintained its head office and some production in Manhattan until 1960. This is an early Annin mark, of the sort that appears between the mid-1860's and the 1889. The combination of this and the flag's construction suggests mid-1870's or early 1880's.

Originally there were two brass grommets, one of which is now absent. A patched repair was made to the top of the binding, where a portion was replaced by a length of sailcloth canvas and a hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommet was added in place of the brass. heavy twill and canvas were used interchangeably by flag-makers during this period for the manufacture of bindings.

Private yacht ensigns in sizes measuring beyond 3 to 4 feet on the fly are uncommon. At approx. 43 inches on the hoist x 75" on the fly, this unusually large among its counterparts. It is also a particularly beautiful flag, due to the large scale of both its starts and anchor, which are particularly bold and graphic. Losses at the fly end are evidence of long term use. This is one of those instances when damage actually adds to a flag's appearance and desirability, due to a legitimate and endearing sense of both movement and history.

13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. In addition to their use on private yachts, they were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s final visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the nation’s centennial in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians while campaigning for the same reason. The U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats until 1916, because it was easier to discern fewer stars at a distance on a small flag. Commercial flag-makers mirrored this practice and some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own textile conservation department, which is led by expert trained 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 on every seam and throughout the star field for support. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for color fastness. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is modest to moderate oxidation of the white cotton and there is some soiling throughout. In addition to the repair to the top of the hoist binding, described above, there is minor mothing throughout and there are modest tears and losses at the top and bottom of the hoist and along the last red stripe. There is minor bleaching around a small hole hear the hoist end in the same stripe. There are moderate to significant losses all along the fly end from obvious, extended use. 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: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1870
Latest Date of Origin: 1885
State/Affiliation: New York
War Association:
Price: SOLD

Views: 265