Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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Dimensions (inches): Frame - Approx. 44" x 42", quilt - 32.75" x 31"
Made sometime between the 1830’s and the 1850’s, this blue calico and white American crib quilt features a tremendous, turkey-head style, federal eagle, surrounded by 16 eight-pointed stars. The white ground is cotton with a woven, raised rib, probably men’s shirting. The ribbing has a diagonal grain. There are two different calicos, one used for the eagle and the three stars in the lower left and the remainder for the stars above, the star immediately below the tail, and the three to the lower right. The number of stars is certainly intentional, as evidenced by the 16 vertical stripes of hand-sewn, chain-stitch in white thread, used to create the shield upon the eagle’s breast. The eye is executed with the same stitching.

In the eagle’s proper right talon is a cluster of arrows, embroidered in dark brown silk floss. There is an olive branch in the left talon, sewn in a combination of light blue and gold floss. The head of the eagle faces the talon holding the arrows, which can sometimes suggest a wartime pose, but there is another olive branch in the beak—this one entirely blue—that suggests otherwise.

The count of 16 likely reflects one of two things. One of these would have been to glorify the June 1st, 1796 admission of Tennessee as the 16th state. This might have occurred on an anniversary of Tennessee Statehood, for example, such as the state's 50th birthday in 1846.

Another possibility is that the stars reflected the count of Free States during part of the antebellum, following the addition of California, between 1850 and 1858. During this time the U.S. Navy was known to have been using the 16 star count on some of its flags made for small craft. There were no wars during this time frame and the Navy spent most of its efforts combatting the slave trade and piracy. The import of slaves had been illegal in the States since 1807, when both America and Britain became the first major nations to outlaw the practice. It has been suggested by more than one historian that the 16 stars reflected loyalty to the North. A broadside made for the anti-slavery ticket of the first Republican candidate for president, John Fremont, illustrates such a flag and its meaning by way of accompanying explanation: “All North; No South.” If the star count here was utilized for the same purpose, this would narrow the date to the 1850-1858 window.

Note the flower-like profile of the stars, which are especially beautiful. The interesting manner in which the federal shield is illustrated is something that I have never seen before, basically monochromatic, with no plain white expanses, no red, and no stars. The form of the eagle is absolutely beautiful, as-is the overall composition.

Mounting: The quilt 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 other related textiles and have framed thousands of examples.

The quilt has been hand-stitched to a supportive background of 100% silk organza throughout for support. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian.

Condition: A length of fabric in the eagle’s neck appears to be a period replacement, probably done by the maker during its regular course of use. There is a small split in this fabric (difficult to see), but there appear to be no others on the face. There are many splits on the back of the quilt. There is minor to moderate fading of the blue calico, especially in the 10 stars above, below in the center, and to the eagle’s proper left. The silk floss used to embroider the arrows has deteriorated, probably due to the due that was employed. Quilts with a patriotic theme are given great allowances for wear when compared to their non-patriotic counterparts, especially in this early period.
Primary Color: blue, white
Earliest Date: 1830
Latest Date: 1858
For Sale Status: Sold
Price SOLD
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