Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 64.5" x 77.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 51.5" x 64.5"
Many people are unaware that individual states generally didn't adopt flags until the turn-of-the-century and shortly thereafter, when World's Fair events had reached their height of popularity. It was at this time that those without them rushed to conform, so that displays of the flags of all states would not find them absent, and the beautiful, stand-alone buildings that often housed their exhibits, masterfully designed, would not be without a key means of identification.

Although North Carolina didn't adopt a flag until May 20th, 1861, this actually meant that it was among the earliest to do so. Like some of its Southern brethren, the decision coincided with one to secede from the Union. In this case, North Carolina's declaration to join the Confederacy occurred on the very same day. Due to split views on the issue of slavery, with its western population, in the more mountainous regions, generally at odds with and disliking the more aristocratic, eastern-dwelling plantation owners, the decision to leave the Union occurred with some hesitation. Only after the secession of Virginia seceded did this occur. At this point, siding with the federal government would have left North Carolina like an island, geographically stranded.

The original flag of the state looked very much like it does today. This was comprised of three bars, one vertical, along the hoist end, followed by two horizontal. The primary difference between the original and the current flag is that the colors of red and blue were reversed. The first flag, therefore, had a red bar, followed by blue over white. In the center of the red register was a single white star, above and below which were important dates in North Carolina history. Above was May 20th, 1775. This was the date of the supposed adoption of the Mecklenburg Declaration, purported to be the very first instance in which a group of citizens -- in this case, the residents of Mecklenburg County -- formally announced independence. As the story goes, the act occurred shortly after the British attack in Lexington and the outbreak of war. Though the original document does not exist, and is thought by most scholars to be but a myth, the date remains on the current North Carolina flag. True or not, the sentiment and meaning remain part of North Carolina's independent, patriotic pride and lore.

Below the star, on the original flag, was the date of the state's secession, which remarkably occurred on the very same day as the Mecklenburg Declaration, 86 years later. This flag, with its blue-over-white bars at the fly end, remained official until 20 years after the Civil War ended.

The current North Carolina flag (with but slightly different measurements) was adopted in March of 1885. State Adjutant General Johnston Jones presented a bill that swapped the red and blue colors, aligning them more closely with the Stars & Stripes. At the same time the new design removed the date of secession, replacing it with that of something called the Halifax Resolves. This was another patriotic, Revolutionary War reference, (this time well-documented,) in which the state's Fourth Provincial Congress unanimously voted for independence and urged other states to follow suit. Because North Carolina was the first state to issue such an act, it was a fitting counterpoint to the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration, real or otherwise, and further cemented the shift toward American patriotism as opposed to Southern sympathies.

Jones' bill also called for the dates to be set upon gilded, scrolling banners, and for the initials of the state to be added in gilt letters, flanking the white star to the left and right.

Constructed sometime between roughly 1900 and WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-18), the blue, red, and white bars of this particular flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced-and-joined with machine stitching. While gold color is absent from the design, the maker instead substituted ivory colored cloth, emphasizing a difference by using bright white cotton for the star. These elements of the device, plus the dates, in black, were all double-appliqu├ęd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag machine stitch. Because variation is especially rampant in early state flags and seals, deviations from what was official are the rule as opposed the exception.

Measuring approximately 51.5" x 64.5," note how the flag seems relatively near-to-square. In this aspect it mimics ground use, infantry battle flags, the shape of which is purposeful. Having these sort of proportions meant that the flag could be made as large as possible, yet not drag on the ground when carried due to excessive length on the bias. The absence of a formal header is further evidence that it was intended to be carried on foot or perhaps by horse. Instead the blue wool was rolled over onto itself, lined with cotton, and bound in such a way to create an open sleeve. Through this a wooden staff would be passed, then tacked into place. Because early hand-carried flags are far-and-away scarcer than their rectangular counterparts, and are more graphically unusual from the norm, this is an attractive characteristic among flag collectors and enthusiasts.

A small length of cotton, stamped with the name "R.O. Brewster" is stitched to the sleeve on the reverse. This would be the name of a former owner and is probably a cleaner's tag. Extensive research into the possible identity of Brewster yielded no results.

In the case of many states, early examples of state colors fall between very scarce and extremely rare. One reason for this might be explained by production, was may have been extremely low. Another might be attributed to a general lack of nostalgia for a new or relatively new design, but whatever the involved variables might be, the fact remains that early state flags are generally just not out there to be found. That certainly applies to this North Carolina example, which is simultaneously the earliest and nicest that I can recall having encountered to date.

All-in-all, an exciting find and a wonderful example.

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 presentation of flags and have preserved thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a substantial, black-painted and hand-gilded, Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There are limited areas of fabric loss in all three panels, the most significant of which are an irregular 4 x 4 inch area adjacent to the top edge of the white bar, towards the hoist end, a 1.5" x 2" area in the same bar towards the fly end, a 2.5" x 2" area in the red bar towards the fly end, a 1.5" x 1.25" areas in the upper, fly end corner of the same, a scattering of smaller losses in and adjacent to the lower half of the letter "N," in the blue, and a 1.5" x 1" area at the extreme top, hoist-end corner in the blue. Losses elsewhere are minor. Fabric of similar coloration was placed bhind all three panels for masking purposes. There is minor to moderate fading in the blue bar. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1900
Latest Date of Origin: 1918
State/Affiliation: North Carolina
War Association:
Price: SOLD

Views: 244