Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 30" x 40.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 18.5" x 28.75"
Like the British Royal Navy, American vessels flew three flags. When at anchor or moored, the jack is flown at the bow (front), the national flag or "ensign" is flown at the stern (back), and the commission pennant is flown from the main mast. When under way, the Jack is furled and the ensign may be kept in place or shifted to a gaff if the ship is so equipped.

The American Navy jack is a blue flag with a field of white stars. The design is the mirror image of the canton of an American national flag. In scale, the jack was meant to be the same size as the canton of the corresponding Stars & Stripes ensign with which it was flown.

While the technical name for this type of flag was a "union jack," the confusing verbiage, being the same as the nickname of the most recognizable British flag, has resulted in a common shortening of the term to simply "the jack". Interestingly enough, the British Union Jack is not the proper name for that signal either. The design commonly called the "Union Jack" is actually the "Union Flag," though practically no one uses or is even familiar with the term. The only time that it can be properly called the "Union Jack" is when it is, in fact, flown as the jack on a British Navy ship. Because the British fly various national flags: the white ensign (Royal Navy), blue ensign (non-navy ships in public service), and red ensign (merchant ships), each of which is composed of a wide field the corresponding color, with the Union Flag design as its canton, the use of the Union Flag as the jack on Royal Navy ships employs the same logic as using the blue field with stars, without the red and white striped field, as the American jack.

While commission pennants and jacks were the most basic of Naval signals (beyond the national flag), they were also displayed by yachtsmen, many of whom followed Navy practices, as well as Hudson River Steamships, which often flew a plethora of visually interesting flags, more for dress than for practical purpose.

This jack was found with three commission pennants of an unusual style, 6 feet in length, but wide and with 13 stars arranged in one row of 7 over a row of 6. The tiny size of both the pennant (which could sometimes be 100 feet in length) and the jack, at just 2 feet on the fly, and the lack of typical military construction, regulation measurements, or expected attributes of military flags of the period, suggests use on a private yacht.

The body of the flag is made of wool bunting. The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliqu├ęd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag, machine stitch. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two brass grommets. All of the stitching was done by machine.

Note how the stars have an interesting shape with unusually short, conical arms. This profile is sometimes encountered on flags of this particular era, but is uncommon. I once acquired a small 13 star flag made by Betsy Ross's great-granddaughter, Sarah M. Wilson, in Philadelphia, who sometimes signed her flags along their white cotton hoists with her name, date, and place of manufacture. As an alternative to signing the sleeve, she sometimes signed a small piece of paper and gave it to the purchaser. In this particular case, however, she had chosen to sign a heavy cardboard star pattern to accompany her flag. The star pattern was of this design.

I also bought and sold a 44 star flag with the same peculiar stars. Along the hoist binding was a stamped maker's mark that read: "J.S. Oberholtzer; 5837 Pulaski Avenue; Germantown [Philadelphia], PA," which tends to denote a further correlation between this unusual star shape and Philadelphia area manufacture. I have owned other flags with these stars, sewn in the same manner, but the Oberholtzer example was the only signed one among them.

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 background fabric is hemp. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 44
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1896
State/Affiliation: Wyoming
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD

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