Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 40.5" x 57"
Flag Size (H x L): 28.5" x 45.25"
13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. They were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the centennial of American independence 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.

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 of them close together would become as one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas. Keeping the count low allowed for better visibility. For this reason the U.S. Navy flew 13 star flags on small boats. Some private ship owners mirrored this practice and flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy.

Flag experts disagree about the precisely when the Navy began to revert to 13 stars and other low counts. Some feel that the use of 13 star flags never stopped, which seems to be supported by depictions of ships in period artwork. 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. Any American flag that has previously been official remains so according to the flag acts, so it remains perfectly acceptable to fly 13 star flags today by way of congressional law.

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 or 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. The practice of using 13 stars on many of the smallest sewn flags seems to have remained popular through the 1920's, and while custom flags have continuously been available, regular production of 13 star examples afterwards declined.

Measuring approximately 28.5 x 45 inches, the construction of this particular flag suggests that it was probably made sometime between 1910 and WWII (U.S. involvement 1941-45). In the years following WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-18), in particular, the nation was experiencing a rebirth of the popularity of colonial and federal style furniture and architecture, and patriotism was at the forefront of American society. The latter persisted through WWII, when American pride skyrocketed. War and patriotic events during this era generated the need for flags for parades, pageants, porches, rallies, theatrical productions, and wartime bond efforts. One of the more notable reasons for its manufacture in this period would be for use in celebration of our nation's 150th anniversary in 1926. Another would be for festivities surrounding the 200th birthday of George Washington in 1932, which was accompanied by great fanfare.

Since there was no official star configuration until the 20th century (1912 specifically, beginning with the 48 star count), the stars on 13 star flags may appear in any one of a host of configurations. Some of these are more rare and desirable than others. The stars of this particular flag are arranged in a circular wreath of 12 with a star in the very center. This basic configuration, whether oval or circular, has come to be known as the "3rd Maryland Pattern". The design is very desirable due to both its visual attractiveness and the scarcity of its use. The name comes from a flag that resides at the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis, long thought to have been present with General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781. According to legend, the flag was supposed to have been carried by Color Sergeant William Batchelor of the Maryland Light Infantry and was donated to the State of Maryland by Batchelor's descendants. The story was disproved in the 1970's, however, following an examination by the late flag expert Grace Rogers Cooper of the Smithsonian. She discovered that the Cowpens flag was, at the earliest, of Mexican War vintage (1846-48).

Despite the lack of direct association with the reputed regiment, many flag collectors and enthusiasts embraced the name "3rd Maryland" and it stuck to the design. The term actually received some legitimacy through the existence of a similar flag, in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History & Technology, with verified Maryland provenance. This was carried by the Maryland and District of Columbia Battalion of Volunteers during the Mexican War. While the configuration is known to be an early one, as evidenced by 18th century illustrations, this star pattern is most often encountered among surviving flags that date to the mid-19th century, roughly within the Mexican War to Civil War time frame (1846-1865). For some reason it seems to have not been quite as popular during our nation's 100-year anniversary, in 1876, but some examples of that period are known. It was also revived in small scale, commercially-produced flags during the 1890-1920's time frame, but is extremely scarce in that period and is rarely seen after.

Construction: The canton and stripes of the flag are made of cotton and are pieced by machine. The cotton stars are machine-sewn with a zigzag stitch and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). Note their extremely irregular shapes, which adds an interesting dose of folk quality and character. Some of the arms are much longer than others, which is especially peculiar for this period and probably denotes manufacture in a very hands-on, cottage industry setting. There is no binding along the hoist. This flag was instead tacked to a staff directly along the hem.

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, which was washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount was placed in a deep, cove-shaped molding with a very dark brown surface, nearly black, and a rope-style inner lip. To this a flat profile liner, with a finish like old gun metal, was added as a liner.

Condition: The flag was certainly flown. There are small holes and tears in four places along the hoist, where the flag was once affixed to a wooden staff. One of these is accompanied by modest loss along one of the white stripes. There is minor to modest foxing and soling, most visible along the hoist and fly ends in the white stripes. There are two tears and a tiny hole in the last red stripe, at the fly end, the largest with associated loss. 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: 1910
Latest Date of Origin: 1945
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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