Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 46.5" x 61.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 34.5" x 50"
A jack is a flag traditionally flown on a military ship. Like the British Royal Navy, American vessels flew three flags. When at anchor or moored, the jack is flown at the bow (front), the national flag, or "ensign," is flown at the stern (back), and a commission pennant is flown from the main mast. When under way, the Jack is furled and the ensign may be kept in place or shifted to a gaff if the ship is so equipped.

The American Navy jack is a blue flag with a field of white stars. The design is the mirror image of the canton of an American national flag. In scale, the jack was meant to be the same size as the canton of the corresponding Stars & Stripes ensign with which it was flown. American jacks dating to the 19th century are rare in any form. Though present in many paintings, it would seem that these were either inconsistently utilized or else often discarded.

Other ships sometimes flew jacks. The owners of private yachts often emulated Navy practice with regard to signals. With regard to the use of jacks, this does not seem to have been customary during the 19th century, but rather gained popularity during the early 20th century. During the mid-late 19th century, the primary use of jacks occurred on the Hudson River, where they were regularly flown on paddlewheel steamers in a myriad of forms. These boats were often decorated with all sorts of flags, most of them for visual pleasure rather than any sort of utilitarian function. While a navy ship might fly a number of its colors when dressed, to participate it some sort of maritime parade or event, passenger steam boats did so at all times, in order to distinguish themselves and impress its audience of current and potential travelers. Hudson River steamers were often outfitted by their owners with a creative host of interesting flags. Visual records by painters, such as those of James and John Bard, show not only Stars & Stripes, but commission pennants, private owner and cruise line burgees, burgees with the names of the respective ships, as well as flags with patriotic devices such as eagles, federal shields. Some of these were identical to American Navy jacks, rectangular in form, while others were embellished adaptations thereof.

Made by the Annin Company of New York City, this particular flag has a tapered and forked, swallowtail form, like a traditional burgee. The navy blue field is made of lengths of wool bunting that have been joined with treadle stitching. The 6 cotton stars are arranged in a wreath or pentagon of 5 small stars, with a huge star in the center. These are treadle-sewn with a lineal stitch and are single-appliquéd. This means that they are applied to one side of the flag, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. While this manner of work wasn’t often accomplished with treadle stitching, I have nonetheless encountered it in 36 star flags on scarce occasion (1864-1867), and, although extremely rare, even prior to that year. I have not encountered it pre-Civil War. While stars were customarily stitched by hand until 1890, Annin was both the most experienced flag-maker in the United States, and situated in the most technologically advanced location.

There is a heavy canvas binding along the hoist, applied with treadle stitching, and two brass grommets, one each at the top and bottom. Along this a stencil in black paint reads “Annin & Co.” The earliest I have ever seen an Annin stencil on a Stars & Stripes, on a flag made within the period when its star count was official, (as opposed to afterwards for some commemorative purpose,) is on 36 star examples.

The reason for the use of 6 stars in this configuration is not known. Although I have been unable to locate any private owner flags that display this device, similar flags and devices, with stars and/or letters, in various profiles, can be seen in both surviving paintings and photographs, flying from the bow of paddlewheel steamboats. With as many flags as these ships flew, its amazing that more are not encountered. In more than 20 years of aggressive buying and searching, across thousands upon thousands of flags, I have seen very little of this nature. Made sometime between approximately 1866 and the 1880’s—most likely during the earliest part of that date window—this is one of scant few flags I can attribute to the craft that moved passengers in style from New York City to the expanse of weekend and vacation destinations upstate.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed in our own textile 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 background is 100% hemp or a hemp and cotton blend (we use both interchangeably), ivory in color. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: The flag was extensively flown. There is a long, vertical tear, with some associated loss, running from the lower edge to one point of the star nearest to the hoist end. There is significant loss in both tips of the swallowtail. There are a number of small holes elsewhere in the blue field. There is a lateral split in the big, center star and there are very minor to modest holes in some of the others. There is some soling and discoloration of the white fabrics. Cotton fabric with extremely similar coloration was placed behind the flag for masking purposes. Areas in and around tears and losses were stabilized with hand-stitching, during the mounting process. The flag presents beautifully. Many of my clients prefer early flags to who their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: Other
Earliest Date of Origin: 1866
Latest Date of Origin: 1889
State/Affiliation: New York
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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