Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 66.5" x 39.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 54.5" x 27.5"
34 star American national flag of the Civil War period, entirely hand-sewn and with a host of rare and interesting features. Small in scale among its pieced-and-sewn counterparts of the mid-19th century, the stars on the obverse (front) are arranged in a medallion pattern. This consists of two consecutive wreaths of stars, with a star in the very center and a flanking star in each corner, outside the basic design. This is a wonderful configuration and iconic among examples of the Civil War period, and, in addition, remarkable to find on a flag of such small size. These elements would be the hallmarks of a great flag, but in this instance represent only a jump-off point on a list of more significant characteristics.

One of the rarest characteristics among early examples of the Stars & Stripes is the presence of completely different star arrangements on each side. This is so scarce as to occur on what I would estimate as one in perhaps one thousand 19th century flags. Boleslaw and Marie D'Otrange Mastai, the first big collectors to publish a pictorial reference, in 1973, who owned about 600 flags and flag-related objects, had no flags that fit this description. Over the thousands of flags that I have had the privilege to own or handle, I can think of just four, all of which were very different from one-another. This particular flag is among the most exceptional that I have ever seen. Not only does it include a completely different star pattern on the reverse, but the stars are of a entirely different and very unusual style. On this side, instead of being traditionally shaped and five-pointed, the stars are of an 8-pointed variety, similar to the profile commonly called the Lemoyne star, popular in American quilts of the same general period. These are arranged in a striking and whimsical configuration that I have termed a "cross" or "propeller" medallion, but may also be properly categorized as a 4-pointed "Great Star" or "Great Flower". On this particular variation there are four stars outside the basic pattern, placed one between each arm.

The flag survives as one of just four examples that share the same basic design concept, all of which are homemade and unique in their own right, being different in scale and in their specific composition of stars. While the purpose of selecting this pattern remains unknown, it is curious to note that all four share the same star count, made during the opening two years of the Civil War.

In addition to the extraordinary star pattern, the flag has another feature that is almost as rare and of similar significance. Instead of having 7 red and 6 white stripes, beginning and ending with red, the flag has 7 white and 6 red stripes, beginning and ending on white. This circumstance tends to be associated with much earlier flags and primarily exists in 18th century illustrations as opposed to on surviving examples of any period.

One may note that the canton of this flag is also larger than usual, resting on the 9th stripe instead of the 8th. Because of the scale of the flag, this results in a profile that is somewhat more square in shape than most of its counterparts.

As previously suggested, 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 approximately 2.4 x 4.5 feet--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.

Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about 2 ½ 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 through the opening two years of the war, until July 3rd, 1863, and 34 star flags would have generally been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

The combination of the two different star configurations, one of them exceedingly rare, plus two different sizes of stars, one highly unusual, plus the rare stripe arrangement, unusual placement of the canton, the Civil War date, and the fact that the flag is entirely hand-sewn, when combined with an overall fantastic folk art presentation and the small size, results in a flag of masterpiece quality and significance.

Construction and Use: This is a homemade flag, constructed entirely of plain weave cotton. The stitching is entirely by hand. The seaming of the stripes and of the canton to the stripes are exposed on the reverse. This is done in such a way as to add a crude graphic quality that is endearing and actually adds to the presentation. The stars are appliquéd to each side in their respective fashion. Because the stars do not share the same pattern or style on both sides, and only one length of blue cotton was used, the stitching of each is in large part visible on the reverse.

There is no formal hoist binding. Instead the flag shows clear evidence of being affixed to a staff with a series of metal tacks. This is typical of a flag that was carried on foot. Obviously flown for an extended period, the flag may have seen military use. While cotton was far from an ideal fabric for extended outdoor use, it was the primary choice for homemade flags, both because it was readily available and inexpensive relative to fabrics such as wool and silk. While too large for a camp colors or a guidon (flank-marker), and too small for a battle flag, at least per military guidelines, practical considerations often won over by-the-book decision-making. In addition, local individuals sometimes presented units with homemade flags. Presentation flags, as they were called, were sometimes carried in addition to, or in place of, state-issued colors, or as replacements if the need presented itself.

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 substantial, black-painted, Italian molding has a deep, shadowbox profile and a wood grained surface. To this a rippled profile molding, black with gold highlights, was added as a liner. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: The brick red stripes have faded at varying degrees, with areas of increased significance toward the fly end. There are small scattered stains throughout, as well as along the hoist end. The latter are caused by rust from the metal tacks that once held the flag to a wooden staff. There is minor foxing and soiling throughout, with modest levels of the same towards the hoist end.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
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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