|44 STARS IN ZIGZAGGING ROWS ON A PRESS-DYED WOOL AMERICAN FLAG MADE BY THE HORSTMANN COMPANY IN PHILADELPHIA, POSSIBLY FOR USE AS A MILITARY CAMP COLORS, 1890-1896, REFLECTS WYOMING STATEHOOD
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 37" x 50"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|24.75" x 38"
|44 star American national flag, press-dyed on wool bunting. The stars are configured in zigzagging lineal rows of 8-7-8-7-7-7, which is a pattern sometimes seen in this star count. There is an open, twill tape sleeve along the hoist, through which a wooden staff could be threaded and tacked into place. "2 x 3 ft." is stamped along the sleeve in black to indicate size. The lettering and the way that this is applied is consistent with other press-dyed flags that I have owned that were produced and sold by the Horstmann Company in Philadelphia. Horstmann was a major military goods manufacturer and dealer. The firm, which opened in 1816, is well known for the significant role it played in the outfitting of soldiers in the American Civil War. Horstmann is known to have made printed wool flags, in a smaller scale, that were sold as military camp colors. They were still producing these as late as the 46 star period (1907-1912). In terms of scale, however, and the construction of the sleeve, this flag is more congruent with 38 star examples made by Horstmann for general patriotic display at the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia. These could have simply been sold for any purpose the user may have desired and may possibly have been employed in either military or private function.
Wyoming became the 44th state on July 10th, 1890. Even though the 44 star flag was not official until July 4th, 1891, most flag-makers would have begun to add a 44th star to their flags as soon as Wyoming declared statehood, or perhaps even before the state was actually added. Because flag-making was a competitive venture, flag-makers did not want to be producing 43 star flags, for example, when their competitors were selling 44’s. The 44 star flag would have generally seen use until the addition of Utah in 1896.
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 88 stars (44 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, 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. Within those flags that survived, today’s collectors today find the irregularities interesting, not only because they demonstrate early production methods, but also because they lend the sort of folk qualities that make early flags more interesting to look at.
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. 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.
Press-dying was primarily used during the Centennial-era by the U.S. Bunting Company of Lowell, Massachusetts, which began making press-dyed flags for the U.S. military in 1869, and by Horstmann Brothers. The U.S. Bunting Co. was one of the first flag-makers to successfully produce high quality wool bunting fabric in the States, and while its owners worked diligently to master the press-dyeing process, it seems quite obvious today that it was actually more costly than anticipated. This would explain why it never became a popular method of flag production.
* Chen, W., Wang, G., & Bai, Y., “Best for Wool Fabric Printing…,” (Textile Asia, 2002, v.33 (12)), pp. 37-39.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples; more than anyone worldwide.
The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.
Condition: There is very minor mothing throughout and there is minor soiling along the sleeve. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
|Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
|Earliest Date of Origin:
|Latest Date of Origin:
|1866-1890 Indian Wars
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