Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 62.5" x 82"
Flag Size (H x L): 50.25" x 69.5"
13 star American national flag, made approximately at the opening of the 1890's (ca 1889-1895). The stars are configured into rows in counts of 4-5-4, which is an attractive and desirable pattern among flag collectors. Note the irregularity of the placement of the stars, especially in the top and bottom rows, as well as the way in which the position of each varies on its vertical axis. Also of interest is the shape of the stars, bulbous and irregular, with arms of varying lengths bent this way and that, exhibiting great folk qualities. Note how the color of the canton has faded to a shade of dusty blue-grey, which some collectors find to be particularly attractive. Collectively these attributes lend great visual appeal to the overall design.

The 4-5-4 lineal configuration is both scarcer and more appealing than rows of stars in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, which prevails on at least 70% of the surviving examples made during the late 19th century. The 4-5-4 design seems to have been popular in fledgling America, as evidenced by both surviving flags and images within drawings, paintings, and engravings. It appears on U.S. Navy flags of the mid-19th century and is frequently encountered in flags of the Civil War. For some reason, however, it seems to have not been immensely popular at the time of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence, when many 13 star flags were made, but the pattern appears once again, occasionally, on small, commercially produced flags of the 1890’s. Suffice to say that the 4-5-4 pattern is scarce, however, in any flags that post-date the Civil War.

Since there was no official star pattern for the American national flag set forth in the First Flag Act of June 14th, 1777, and because the original does not survive, nor even descriptions of it recorded in public documents or private journals, no one actually knows what the very first flag actually looked like. Due to its apparent popularity in early America, however, as evidenced by both drawings and surviving 19th century examples, more than one flag expert has hedged that lineal rows of 4-5-4 is a viable candidate for the original configuration.

13 star flags have been continuously produced throughout our nation’s history for purposes both patriotic and utilitarian. This was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the original 13 colonies, so it was appropriate for any flag made in conjunction with celebrations of American independence. 13 star flags were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s final visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the nation’s centennial in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians while campaigning for the same reason.

13 star flags were flown by American ships both private and federal. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on the ensigns made for small boats, because they wished the stars to be easily discerned at a distance. As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag so that they may be viewed from afar as individual objects. Because any star count that has previously been official remains so today according to the Congressional flag acts, all 13 star flags in an otherwise appropriate design remain official flags of the United States.

This particular flag was produced in a cottage industry setting. The scale is fairly unusual among its 13 star counterparts. When commercial flag-makers began for the first time to make 13 star flags in quantity for general consumption, beginning around 1890, they did so primarily in two sizes, including 2 x 3 feet and 2.5 x 4 feet. There was some variation across makers, and larger examples can be encountered, but extremely few bear the 4-5-4 pattern. Also unusual are the squarish proportions among larger 13 star flags of this era.

The stripes and canton of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been joined with treadle stitching. The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a lineal machine stitch. There is a binding along the hoist made of heavy cotton twill, with 2 brass grommets, along which the name "W.E. Austin" was inscribed in pencil. This would be the name of a former owner and it was common to mark flags in this fashion during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although this particular surname and initials are far too common to offer a means of identification and thus have no real impact on monetary value, the presence of the inscription does add a bit of academic interest.

In summary, this is a wonderful example of the period, with nice scale, an interesting star pattern, and interesting color.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own textile 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 mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is minor to modest mothing throughout. There is a series of rust spots all along the hoist binding, accompanied by minor soiling both here and in the stars, as well as in the white stripes, with a modest spot of soiling at the extreme end of the first white stripe. There is significant fading of the blue wool bunting, resulting from fugitive dye. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1889
Latest Date of Origin: 1895
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD

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