|ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH 37 STARS ON A CORNFLOWER BLUE CANTON, ARRANGED IN A UNIQUE “GREAT STAR” OR “GREAT LUMINARY” CONFIGURATION, INCORPORATED INTO A RECTANGULAR MEDALLION; A HOMEMADE EXAMPLE, MADE DURING THE ERA OF AMERICAN RECONSTRUCTION; REFLECTS NEBRASKA STATEHOOD, 1867-1876
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 58.5" x 116.5" (85,.5" in folded mount)
|Flag Size (H x L):
|46.25" x 104" (73" in folded mount)
|37 star American national flag, made entirely of cotton and with a beautiful configuration of stars that is unique to this example. Homemade and with an extremely elongated format, the stars are arranged in a rectangular box, in the center of which is a “Great Star” pattern—a star made out of stars. Canted at an angle, so that it tips toward the fly end, note how the stars at the end of two of the arms of the Great Star help form the rectangular perimeter. Also note how the centermost star is significantly larger. All are arranged on a canton with striking, cornflower blue coloration, that contrasts beautifully with the scarlet red stripes.
In the world of antique American flags there are nearly countless star patterns, but most have lineal rows or columns. Some have circular designs, which are further down the rarity scale. The Great Star is far more scarce and is highly coveted, due to both its rarity and strong visual qualities. The combination of a Great Star and a rectangle is nearly unknown.
Nebraska joined the Union on March 1st, 1876, less than two on the heels of the close of the Civil War. This was the era of Reconstruction of the South and at a time when many Civil War veterans re-enlisted and were shipped West to participate in tasks surrounding settlement of the territories and the Indian Wars. The 37 star flag became official on July 4th of that year and remained so until July 3rd, 1777, though it generally fell out of use in 1876 with the addition of Colorado.
The 37 star-count is fairly scarce when compared to the flags that immediately preceded and followed it. This is due primarily to the lack of major patriotic events during the period in which they were generally used. While the 37 star flag was still official in 1876, the year of our nation's 100th anniversary of independence, it was well known that at least one more state would be joining the Union that year. This caused many flag makers to cease production in favor of 38 and 39 star flags (made in anticipation of yet another state), along with 13 star examples to commemorate the original 13 colonies.
Brief History of the “Great Star” Pattern:
The concept of arranging the stars in a star-shaped manner seems to have gained popularity as a potential, official design, shortly after the War of 1812. It was then that Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 naval hero, select a configuration 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’s primary concern centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. His hope was as more and more states joined the Union and more and more stars were added to the flag, that this important signal would remain easily identified on the open seas. In 1818, Reid suggested to Congress that the number of stripes permanently return to 13 (reduced from 15) 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 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 suggested a simple pattern of justified rows but did not issue an official deign, so the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it. Its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags with this configuration.
The 37th state, Nebraska, joined the Union on March 1st, 1867. The 37 star flag was official from that year until 1877, although it generally fell from use in 1876, with the impending addition of more states. The 37 star-count is quite scarce in comparison to the flags that immediately preceded and followed it. This is due primarily to the lack of major patriotic events during the period in which they were used, that followed the Civil War, yet preceded the 1876 anniversary of American independence, and encompassed most of Southern Reconstruction. While the 37 star flag was still official in 1876, it was well known that at least one more state would be joining the Union that year. This caused flag makers to cease production in favor of 38 and 39 star flags. It was for this reason that 37 star flags were seldom produced for the Centennial International Exposition, where 38, 39, and 13 star counts (the latter to commemorate the 13 original colonies) were far more prevalent.
Construction: Made entirely of cotton, the canton and stripes have been pieced and joined with treadle stitching. These were rolled over and bound along the hoist to create a narrow, open sleeve. The 3rd white stripe was pieced from two lengths of fabric and the 4th red stripe was pieced from three lengths. The stars are double-appliquéd, meaning that they are applied to both sides, with a lineal, treadle stitch. Although their vertical orientation varies, many of these are canted so that one arm points toward the 1:00 position (when viewed on the obverse).
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, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The background fabric is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: There is minor to moderate fading in the blue canton, accompanied by modest discoloration/soiling in the top center. The flag was obviously flown. There are some tears, losses, and re-stitching for repair along the fly end, the most significant of which occurs in the top 2 stripes. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind this area for masking purposes. There are minor tears and losses at the top and bottom of the hoist end, where the flag also received some stress during use. At one point the hoist end was turned onto itself to make a wide sleeve, folding into the midst of the 5 stars along that end. We removed the alteration, opened the flag back up to its original form, and re-bound the hoist end as it originally was, though by hand instead of treadle stitching. Many of my clients prefer early flags to display their age and history of use.
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