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  33 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A DOUBLE WREATH STAR CONFIGURATION, PRESS-DYED ON WOOL BUNTING, PROBABLY MADE FOR MILITARY USE AS CAMP COLORS OR A GUIDON, ONE-OF-A-KIND AMONG KNOWN EXAMPLES, WEST VIRGINIA STATEHOOD, 1863-1865

Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 36.5" x 49.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 23.5" x 37.25"
Description....:
33 star American national flag, press-dyed on wool bunting and the only known example in this exact style. The stars are arranged in a beautiful, double-wreath style medallion configuration that features a large star in the very center, canted so that one point is directed in the 11:00 position (when viewed on the obverse) and a star in each corner of the navy blue canton.

Oregon entered the Union as the 33rd state on February 14th (Valentines Day), 1859. The 33 star flag was official from 1859-1861, and was thus still the official flag when Ft. Sumter was fired upon on April 12th of that year. This event marked the beginning of the Civil War, and a 33 star flag was flying at Ft. Sumter during the attack. Because the 34th state, Kansas, had already acquired statehood on January 29th, 1861, the 34 star flag was to become official on July 4th. For this reason, 33 star flags were not generally not produced for the war, which would last until 1865, and 33 star flags were generally made pre-war. It is for this reason that 33 star examples are far-and-away more scarce than their 34, 35, and 36-star counterparts.

Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. The only consistent private use prior to 1861 seems to have accompanied political campaigning.

Even the military did not use the national flag in a manner that most people might think. Most people are surprised to learn that the infantry wasn't authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until well into the 19th century. The foremost purpose before the Civil War (1861-65) was to identify ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark garrisons and government buildings, the flags of ground forces were limited to the those of their own regiment and a perhaps a federal standard (a blue or buff yellow flag bearing the arms of the United States). Artillery units were the first to be afforded the privilege in 1834. Infantry followed in 1841, but cavalry not until 1862. The first actual war in which the Stars & Stripes was officially carried was thus the Mexican War (1846-48). In more than 20 years of aggressive buying and research, I have encountered almost no American national flags produced in an obvious military style that are of the Mexican War period.

Other small flags like this, made of press-dyed wool, have been positively identified as Union Army camp colors, marking tents in Union encampments, and used for drilling within the camp. These are also thought to have rendered service as guidons (flank-markers), especially in states such as New York, which raised so many regiments so quickly that they were very difficult to outfit. Note the four, plain weave, hand-sewn, cotton tabs, evenly dispersed along the hoist end. These added strength so that the flag could be more securely affixed to a wooden staff with metal tacks, almost certainly so that it could be hand-carried. The presence of carefully executed darning in 10 of the 13 stripes is indicative of what was most likely care in the field.

Most printed cotton and silk flags of this period were parade flags, intended for one day’s use at a parade or rally in the hands of private citizens. At this time in early America, however, flag-makers were experimenting with small scale, resist-dyed, wool flags for military use. Because wool sheds water, it was the choice for all maritime flags produced during the 19th century and prior, as well as for most flags that flew over garrisons and other structures. The idea was to adapt the fabric to small, dyed flags that would be relatively quick to produce and last for an extended period. The process wasn't particularly easy and because so few have survived, one may accurately assume that they were either produced in small numbers or often discarded at some later date. In either event, they are a rarity today among surviving Civil War relics.

Lincoln pushed Nevada through to statehood on October 31st, 1864, during the Civil War, and just 8 days before the November election. The territory’s wealth in silver was attractive to a nation struggling with the debts of war and so increased support for the Republican ticket. While the 36th star wasn't officially added until July 4th of the following year, the makers of printed flags are known to have begun adding the 36th star as early as July of 1864, several months before the addition of Nevada actually occurred. This was a common practice during the late 19th century and is reflective of both the nation's desire for Westward Expansion and the hope of flag-makers to bring new star counts to market before their competitors. The 36 star flag was officially replaced by the 37 star flag in 1867, following the addition of Nebraska.

In summary, this is a very rare flag of the Civil War period, with suspected military use, with a dynamic star configuration, strong colors, and in a great small size. One of my personal favorites in both star count and visual presence, this unique example would be a great addition to any flag or Civil War collection.

Some Notes on Press-Dyed Flags:
Press-dyed wool flags are far more scarce than those printed on cotton and silk. The earliest examples were produced by Edward Brierly, a textile manufacturer in Lowell, Massachusetts, who received the first patent for the process in 1849. From this time until the Civil War period (1861-65), most of the flags produced in this fashion appear to have served a military purpose, either as camp colors or perhaps as flank markers when need arose.

By contrast, most small decorative flags were instead printed on cotton or silk. Called parade flags or hand-wavers, these were intended for one day’s use only at a specific parade, rally, or other patriotic event. Cotton and silk were ill-suited for exposure to moisture. Because wool sheds water, it was more appropriate extended outdoor use. In 1876, the Centennial International Exposition, a six-month-long World's Fair held in Philadelphia, required many small decorative flags that could withstand long-term exposure to the elements. The Horstmann Company appears to have made and sold many for this function.

Previous to this time, the flag-maker Annin in New York is suspected of playing a role in the production of printed or press-dyed flags with wool content. This may be the case, but I do not suspect this flag to be of Annin manufacture, as it is unlike anything I have encountered in both its unusually gauzy fabric and star configuration across press-dyed 34 star flags.

I have a specific appreciation for printed wool flags due to their scarcity as well as their superior texture over most of their cotton and silk counterparts. Dyed wool bunting usually holds its colors well. That is certainly the case here.

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 black-painted, Italian molding has an early American profile and a silver gilded inner lip. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for color fastness. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There are minor, scattered losses, accompanied by two areas of modest loss in the 2nd and 3rd stripes. There are numerous darning repairs in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13 stripes. Executed with a thick floss or thread, these were almost certainly done during its course of use and are especially endearing. There are tack holes in the cotton tabs and associated rust stains. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type:
Star Count: 33
Earliest Date of Origin: 1859
Latest Date of Origin: 1861
State/Affiliation: Oregon
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
 

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