Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 37.5" x 50.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 25.25" x 37.75"
Rare flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii, the earliest I have ever encountered, made during the Monarchy and within the period of British Protectorate. Press-dyed on wool bunting, the flag was produced by Horstmann & Brothers Company in Philadelphia for the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition. This was our nation's first World's Fair, held to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of American independence. World's Fairs celebrated both national history and modern accomplishments, with an eye to positive international cooperation and mutual respect. Despite its far-flung location, The Kingdom of Hawaii began participating in Worlds Fairs in 1867.

A twill-woven, cotton header binds the hoist, in the form of an open sleeve. Along this is an inked stencil that reads: "Hawaiian Islands" followed by "2 X 3 ft." to indicate size. Unique among known examples, the flag is akin to a small group of American and international flags made by Horstmann specifically for the event. Founded in 1816, the firm is best known for the significant role it played in outfitting Civil War regiments. In 1876, post-war, it was both conveniently located and well-equipped to outfit the massive, six-month-long fair. Held in Fairmont Park, more than 200 temporary structures were erected on the 285 acre site, drawing 9 million visitors. The Main Building was actually the largest in the world, with a footprint of 1,880 x 464 feet, enclosing no less than 21.5 acres.

Due to the long duration of the Expo and its patriotic theme, thousands of durable flags and banners were required for decoration. In spite of this fact, insofar as international flags are concerned, it is of interest to note that practically none seem to have survived into the 21st century. Like the Hawaiian example that is the subject of this narrative, the remainder of the Horstmann-produced international flags that have been identified to the Expo are likewise singular. The small group surfaced together in the greater Philadelphia area and were accompanied by two 38 star American nationals flags (1876-1889), as well as an 1876 copy of the Grand Union, (a colonial design and America's first flag, which originated around 1775, when it was still a British Colony, and the elements of which are very similar to the Hawaiian flag.) All of the flags bear similar construction and combinations of like markings. Though the Horstmann name isn't present on the Hawaiian flag, the other stencils noting nationality ¬are identical and are tell-tale Horstman identifiers. In my experience, Horstmann was very inconsistent with inclusion of its name, which is not surprising, considering the fact that most of their flags bore no stencils at all. This is one reason why this identified Centennial grouping, with their bold markings, is so unique.

A small tag, hand-sewn on the obverse of the binding, reads "C.R. Oliver." This would represent the name of a former owner and, though I have been unable to identify this individual, it was common to mark flags in this fashion during the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the other flags from the Expo has a similar tag, though the name is hand-written, as opposed to having been rendered with a dye. Each of these may have been affixed by a cleaner, or they may have been added so that the correct person could receive the flag when the fair ended.

The Hawaiian flag took on the design presented here in 1845 and this has effectively been Hawaii's flag ever since. The one brief exception occurred between February and April of 1893, when the monarchy was overthrown and the United States offered protection as a new government was ushered in. So over a period of approximately 175 years, the flag has thus represented the Kingdom, Protectorate, Republic, and Territory of Hawaii, as well as the state. Very few flags have achieved such longevity.

It is the only U.S. state flag to feature the Union flag of the United Kingdom, a remnant of the period in Hawaiian history when it was associated with the British Empire. The field is composed of eight stripes alternating white, red, blue, white, red, blue, white, red. These represent the eight major islands (Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Lānai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and Niihau). Other versions of the flag have only seven stripes, probably representing the islands with the exception of Kahoolawe or Niihau. The present arrangement of the stripes was standardized in 1843, although other combinations of the same three colors have been seen and are occasionally still used.

Unlike some nations, the Kingdom of Hawaii was not formally under British rule. The establishment of a strong relationship between the two nations began with the visits of Captain George Vancouver in 1792. Vancouver had been a crew member aboard the voyages of Captain James Cook, who discovered Hawaii in 1778. While Cook was killed by indigenous residents on his third visit, "Vancouver was a friendly, peaceable man, who made a deep impression on the Hawaiian people through his wisdom and warmth. He tried to intervene in the interminable inter-island wars between the Hawaiians. He notably refused to sell them arms for fear of escalating the civil war. [Vancouver] recognised one of the chief's as primary, who asked for British protection in return. In 1794, the Union Jack was hoisted up a flag pole. This claim was never ratified, but friendly relations continued regardless." (Source:

In Philadelphia, the Hawaiian exhibit was located in the massive Main Building. At least three period photographs survive of the display, and there are flags visible in each. In addition to two huge Hawaiian flags, draped on the back wall, one in the standard pattern and one with some variation of the crest of the Hawaiian Monarchy, much smaller flags on staffs are present in groups, fanned above the display cases and the arched column entrances to the exhibit. Each of these appears to include a Hawaiian flag at the peak, probably flanked by flags of the nations that comprised its primary trade partners. The flags also appear to have open sleeves, through which their wooden staffs are passed, and are very close in scale to this Horstmann-made Hawaiian example. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that this very flag may very well be in the photographs. Production of the design was probably very limited. In addition to the early date, 17 years prior to the dissolution of the Monarchy, 22 years prior to Hawaii's becoming a U.S. Territory, and 83 years before statehood, the survival of such a rare flag, possibly documented in period images, is remarkable.

Some Notes on the Press-Dying Process:
First patented in 1849, the press-dying process was thought to be a novel idea that would improve flag-making efficiency. In this case, for example, it could potentially alleviate the chore of hand-appliquéing 64 stars (32 on each side). In reality, however, the result must have been less efficient than sewing. To achieve white stars, for example, metal plates in the shape of stars had to be clamped to either side of a length of woolen fabric, in the desired configuration, so they were back-to-back. These may have been lightly brushed beforehand with a solution that would resist dye, or perhaps with a thin coat of wax. The stars were clamped together tightly, the bunting was dyed blue, and the areas where the metal stars were positioned would be left white. For flags with press-dyed stripes (not applicable to the flag discussed here), the same task was repeated with different clamps.

A form of resist-dyeing, this method often resulted in crude characteristics, such as stripes with irregular lines, in various widths, and stars with inconsistent shapes, in slightly varying sizes. It is likely that this resulted in some lost product and wasted time, from flags that had bleeding or misprint issues and were of too poor quality to sell. This may perhaps explain why it never became a become a popular method of flag production.

Wool was preferred because it sheds water, making it the fabric of choice for all maritime flags and, in fact, most flags produced by professional flag-makers for long-term outdoor use. The inclusion of cotton would have made the fabric easier to dye and may have, in fact, precluded the need for clamp dying (another name for the process). Whatever the case may be, printing on wool is costly and difficult. Even today, only about 1% of wool fabric is printed**, because it generally needs to be washed afterward and wool cannot easily be treated with water.

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 black-painted and hand-gilded molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: Remarkable, especially considering its age and rarity. The colors are strong and saturated. There is minor mothing and there is minor soiling and staining. 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: Sewn flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Hawaii
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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