Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  34 STARS ON A CORNFLOWER BLUE CANTON, ARRANGED IN A BEAUTIFUL VARIANT OF THE "GREAT STAR" PATTERN, ON AN ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN ANTIQUE AMERICAN MADE DURING THE OPENING YEARS OF THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-63, IN AN EXTREMELY SMALL AND DESIRABLE SCALE FOR THE PERIOD

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 37.75" x 57"
Flag Size (H x L): 28.25" x 48"
Description....:
34 star antique American flag of the Civil War period. Made entirely of cotton, the stars are arranged in what is known as the “Great Star” or "Great Luminary" pattern, a star made out of stars, which is one of the most graphic and desired geometric designs among flag collectors.

Great Stars come in many forms. In the case of flags with pieced-and-sewn construction, most surviving examples are unique. This particular example has a large center star, surrounded by a neat pentagon of 10 stars. Four of the arms are comprised of 4 stars, while the fifth contains just 3. The remaining 4 stars are grouped in a most unusual fashion. Instead of being placed so that 1 star flanks the central pattern in each corner, which was a popular concept employed in many arrangements that center on a circular or star-shaped design, these are configured so that there are pairs in each corner along the hoist end. This gives the flag and off-balanced, yet at the same time artistically interesting presentation, with plenty of whimsical folk quality.

Entirely hand-sewn, the fabric used to construct the white stripes and the blue canton are homespun, the latter of which has been hand-dyed to a beautiful cornflower blue. The red stripes are made of commercially-made, plain weave cloth. Note how this has been carefully pieced in various lengths, making the best use of whatever the maker had available.

The stars are also of a plain weave, commercial fabric, as-is the binding along the hoist, which is narrow and formed into an open sleeve that contains a cotton rope constructed of both blue and white fibers. The stars are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with the edges left raw instead of turned under. The hand-stitching throughout is excellent, but appliqué work required a skill that most seamstresses didn't posses. The flag is certainly homemade. Whomever constructed it could sew well and the textile is beautiful in design. The fact that he/she did not regularly sew flags, however, is evident to the trained eye.

Among flag collectors, the Great Star configuration is the most coveted of all 19th century geometric patterns. Although conceptualized as early as 1782 and depicted in that year on the first die cut of the newly adopted Great Seal of the United States, the popularity of arranging the stars in the form of one big star seems to have spread shortly after the War of 1812, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York, requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 naval hero, be charged with the creation of a new design that would become the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Reid became harbor master of New York following the war. During his lifetime, he created many innovations in signal use, including a system that could actually send messages from New York to New Orleans by sea in just two hours.

Use as a Naval signal had been the primary reason for the initial creation of an American national flag in 1777, but since there was no official star design, the appearance of our flag varied greatly. Reid and Wendover’s primary concerns centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. Their hope was that as more and more states joined the Union, and more and more stars were thus added to the flag, that it would remain easy to identify its design on the open seas. In 1818, Reid suggested to Congress that the number of stripes permanently return to 13, (their count having been increased to 15 in 1795 with the Second Flag Act, which added two more stars for the newest States of Vermont and Kentucky,) and that the stars be grouped into the shape of one large star.

Reid’s proposal would have kept the star constellation in roughly the same format, in a pattern that could be quickly identified through at a distance as the number of states grew. His concept for the stripes was ultimately accepted, but his advice on the star pattern was rejected by President James Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in what would become known as the “Great Star”, “Great Flower”, or “Great Luminary” pattern. Monroe probably didn’t wish to impose this cost on either the government or civilians, so he suggested a simple pattern of justified rows. Never-the-less, the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it and its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags with this configuration.

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 until July 4th, 1863, and 34 star flags would have been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

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. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was placed in a two-part frame that consists of a step-down profile molding, dark brown in color, nearly black, with reddish undertones and highlights, to which a flat profile molding, with a finish like old gunmetal, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is very minor foxing and staining throughout, accompanied by minor stains in two of the stars, in the 5th, 6th, and 7th red stripes, and along the hoist binding, near the bottom. There are three small holes in the 5th red stripe. The overall condition is exceptional among its counterparts of the period.
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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