Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 50.5" x 79.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 39.25" x 68"
Numerous flags appeared with unofficial star counts in early America, some of them produced by flag-makers in large quantity in anticipation of the addition of more states. Interestingly enough, other flags were officially adopted by the United States Congress, but for all practical purposes were never produced. Among these is the 43 star flag, which reflects the addition of Idaho. A tiny handful of flags with this star count are known, but they are among the most rare of all examples throughout American history. To understand why, one may turn back the clock to the 1876 and examine flag production from that year until the addition of the 44th state.

After the Flag Act of 1818, the official “flag year” began every July 4th. So on Independence Day, all states having been added to the Union over the previous year were officially given a star. Makers of flags, however, did not wait for July 4th and official star counts. Flag-making was a competitive industry and many manufacturers added stars before new states were actually added, wishing to create a reason for consumers to buy new flags and one-up each other in sales.

In 1876 the 37 star flag was official, but on August 1st we received our 38th state. Many flag-makers abandoned the 37 star flag when production began for the Centennial International Exposition, a six-month long World's Fair held in Philadelphia as the first of its kind in America, which served as the nucleus for celebrations of our 100-year anniversary of independence from Britain. In that year 38 stars was a common choice, but other flag-makers actually skipped past 38 all-together, choosing to instead produce 39 star flags, anticipating the addition of the Dakota Territory as one state.

Seeing that Dakota wasn't coming, production after 1876 seems to have reverted to the 38 star count. Then in 1889, thirteen years later, 39 star flags were once again manufactured with the anticipation of Dakota's statehood. On November 2nd of that year, a surprise was lay in store for the makers of 39 star flags, when the Dakotas arrived as two different states, which forever rendered 39 star flags both inaccurate and unofficial. Just a few days later, on November 8th, Montana entered the Union as the 41st state, followed by Washington State as number 42 just three days hence on November 11th.

40 star flags were made in limited quantity, reflecting the Dakotas entry. This count is extremely scarce, but not exceptionally rare. Perhaps this is because some flag-makers anticipated the number correctly, and so some of the 40's are anticipatory flags.

41 star flags, by contrast, are among the rarest that exist in 19th century America. This was a 3-day flag and an increase ending in a count of 41seems to not have been guessed.

In stark contrast, 42 star flags are common. These reflect the four new states that arrived in that week-and-a-half period between November 2nd and the 11th. For the next seven-eight months flag-makers seem to have favored this star count, producing many of them, probably with great enthusiasm for a reason to make new flags.

Just one day before the 42 star flag would have become official, on July 3rd, 1990, Idaho snuck in as the 43rd state, which rendered all of the 42 star flags forever unofficial. The 43 star flag became official on July 4th, but flag-makers basically skipped over the 43 star count entirely. This is because on July 10th, just 7 days after Idaho gained statehood, Wyoming was admitted. Practically all flag-makers seem to have predicted this and 43 star flags, while official for one year, were overlooked in favor of those with a count of 44 to add Wyoming as well. For all practical purposes, 43 star flags were not made. Only a tiny handful survive, perhaps ten or so at the most. Of these, three are printed parade flags (a.k.a., "hand-wavers"), while the remainder are larger, pieced-and-sewn examples. I have been privileged to own more than half of these.

The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a lineal, treadle stitch. The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been joined with treadle stitching. Because blue wool bunting was only available in a width of 18”, two lengths were necessary to complete the canton. Note how the narrow, lower strip along the bottom is different in color than the full width of bunting, above it. Most likely they were nearly identical originally. Blue wool bunting of the 19th century tends to fade very little, if at all, usually retaining its intended, medium-dark to very dark blue coloration. Some of this fabric acquired by commercial flag-makers, however, for use in American flags during the first half of the 1890’s, was produced with fugitive dye. This meant that the color broke down and faded with or without the aid of light. That is certainly the case here. Two different dye lots of fabric were apparently employed. Most likely the color difference was not noticeable until it achieved its dusty blue appearance, leaning a bit more towards green on the lower strip and a bit more towards blue in the full width.

The small rectangular patch of wool at the hoist end of the last red stripe is called a gusset. This was included for reinforcement and is original to the flag’s construction. There is a twill woven binding along the hoist, applied by the same method, with 3 brass grommets, one at the top, bottom, and center. The letters and numerals “AA 1093” were inscribed in black ink, on the reverse, near the top of the hoist binding. This is probably an identification number for an exhibit or a collection, added by a museum, historical society, or a private collector.

The size of the flag is particularly important. During the 19th century, most flags were 8 feet and larger on the fly. A garrison flag was 35 feet in length. Where the purpose of most flags today is decorative, in early America it was important that they be seen from great distance to serve their function as signals. At just over 5.5 feet, the small size of this particular example makes it versatile to display, drawing the attention of both collectors and one-time buyers alike. I believe that this is presently the smallest of all known pieced-and-sewn flags in the 43 star count.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black 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: There is modest to moderate soiling throughout. There is significant fading of the blue wool bunting. There is extremely minor mothing. Most of the holes are tiny. The largest occurs along the lower edge of the 3rd red stripe, near the center. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age. The extreme rarity of this star count warrants almost any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 43
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1890
State/Affiliation: Idaho
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD

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