Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 37.5" x 49.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 25.25" x 37.5"
Rare flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii, one of the earliest two examples that I have ever encountered, made during the Monarchy, within the period of British Protectorate. Press-dyed on wool bunting, the flag was produced by Horstmann & Brothers Company in Philadelphia for the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition. This was our nation's first World's Fair, held to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of American independence. World's Fairs celebrated both national history and modern accomplishments, with an eye to positive international cooperation and mutual respect. Despite its far-flung location, The Kingdom of Hawaii began participating in Worlds Fairs in 1867.

A twill-woven, cotton header binds the hoist, in the form of an open sleeve. Along this, on the obverse, near the top, is a black inked stencil that reads: "Hawaiian Islands" followed by "2 X 3 ft." to indicate size. Further down, near the bottom, is another that reads: Horstmann, Phila.” The flag is akin to a small group of American and international flags made by Horstmann Bros. specifically for the event. Founded in 1816, the firm is best known for the significant role it played in outfitting Civil War regiments. In 1876, post-war, it was both conveniently located and well-equipped to outfit the massive, six-month-long fair. Held in Fairmont Park, more than 200 temporary structures were erected on the 285 acre site, drawing 9 million visitors. The Main Building was actually the largest in the world, with a footprint of 1,880 x 464 feet, enclosing no less than 21.5 acres.

The other known Hawaiian flag of the same era was also produced by Horstmann. Remarkably, while of the same size and the same fabrics, and produced in the same manner, the two flags differ from one another graphically. Although both of their striped fields present in the same order, and are accurate to the format that was official during the Protectorate, the position of the cantons of these two flags differs, as do the designs of the Union flag devices employed. On the other known example, the canton rests on the 5th stripe, which is red. That is the correct position. On the example that is the focus of this narrative, the canton is much smaller and rests on the 4th stripe, which is white.

On the other flag, the presentation of the Union flag device is fairly accurate, with the Cross of St. George, red on a white ground, superimposed over the white Cross of St. Andrew. and the red Cross of St. Patrick. (The amount and position of the white on the latter is incorrect, but the overall design is otherwise accurate). On the example in question here, both red crosses are merged together. The errors the result from the proportions of the canton and the device within are both graphically poignant and academically intriguing. This is part of what makes 19th century flags so interesting. Inaccuracy abounds among international, state, and city flags of this period, so much so that variation can be the rule as opposed to the exception. In flags of the Hawaiian Monarchy, not enough survive to make an accurate statement, but suffice to say that the difference is in no way surprising. Dissemination of information was obviously poor. Charts used on ships, to identify flags on the open seas and in ports, varied greatly. Sometimes designers might be copying something from a tiny sketch, with or without color, and/or referring to written descriptions.

Due to the long duration of the Centennial International Exposition, and its patriotic theme, hundreds or perhaps thousands of durable flags and banners were required for decoration. In spite of this fact, it is of interest to note that barely any international examples seem to have survived into the 21st century. Beyond the Hawaiian example that is the subject of this narrative, and its mate of similar design, the remainder of the Horstmann-produced international flags that have been identified to the Expo are singular. The small group surfaced together in the greater Philadelphia area and were accompanied by two 38 star American nationals flags (1876-1889), as well as an 1876 copy of the Grand Union, (a colonial design and America's first flag, which originated around 1775, when it was still a British Colony, and was used until at least June of 1777). All of the flags bear similar construction and combinations of like markings.

The international flags present in that initial group included a British Red Ensign, a British Union flag, plus flags of Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil, Cuba, Honduras (I believe), and perhaps one other that I cannot recall. Aside from the two Hawaiian flags, since that time, the only international flag I have seen surface is a single, Egyptian example. Beyond the American and British examples, all of the others represent the earliest flags that I have ever encountered in the antiques marketplace, from any of these nations.

Brief Discussion of the History of Hawaii, the Design of its Flag, and Participation at the 1876 Centennial Expo:
The Hawaiian flag took on the basic design presented here (with but slight differences) in 1845 and this has effectively been Hawaii's flag ever since. The one brief exception occurred between February and April of 1893, when the monarchy was overthrown and the United States offered protection as a new government was ushered in. So over a period of approximately 175 years, the flag has thus represented the Kingdom, Protectorate, Republic, and Territory of Hawaii, as well as the state. Very few flags have achieved such longevity.

It is the only U.S. state flag to feature the Union flag of the United Kingdom, a remnant of the period in Hawaiian history when it was associated with the British Empire. The field is composed of eight stripes alternating white, red, blue, white, red, blue, white, red. These represent the eight major islands (Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Lānai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and Niihau). Other versions of the flag have only seven stripes, probably representing the islands with the exception of Kahoolawe or Niihau. The present arrangement of the stripes was standardized in 1843, although other combinations of the same three colors have been seen and are occasionally still used.

Unlike some nations, the Kingdom of Hawaii was not formally under British rule. The establishment of a strong relationship between the two nations began with the visits of Captain George Vancouver in 1792. Vancouver had been a crew member aboard the voyages of Captain James Cook, who discovered Hawaii in 1778. While Cook was killed by indigenous residents on his third visit, "Vancouver was a friendly, peaceable man, who made a deep impression on the Hawaiian people through his wisdom and warmth. He tried to intervene in the interminable inter-island wars between the Hawaiians. He notably refused to sell them arms for fear of escalating the civil war. [Vancouver] recognised one of the chief's as primary, who asked for British protection in return. In 1794, the Union Jack was hoisted up a flag pole. This claim was never ratified, but friendly relations continued regardless." (Source:

In Philadelphia, the Hawaiian exhibit was located in the massive Main Building. At least three period photographs survive of the display, and there are flags visible in each. In addition to two huge Hawaiian flags, draped on the back wall, one in the standard pattern and one with some variation of the crest of the Hawaiian Monarchy, much smaller flags on staffs are present in groups, fanned above the display cases and the arched column entrances to the exhibit. Each of these appears to include a Hawaiian flag at the peak, probably flanked by flags of the nations that comprised its primary trade partners. The flags also appear to have open sleeves, through which their wooden staffs are passed, and are very close in scale to this Horstmann-made Hawaiian example. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that this very flag may very well be in the photographs. Production of the design was probably very limited. In addition to the early date, 17 years prior to the dissolution of the Monarchy, 22 years prior to Hawaii's becoming a U.S. Territory, and 83 years before statehood, the survival of such a rare flag, possibly documented in period images, is remarkable.

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 64 stars (32 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 and other devices, 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. This may perhaps explain why it never became a popular method of flag production.

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. The inclusion of cotton would have made the fabric easier to dye and may have, in fact, precluded the need for clamp dying (another name for the process). 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.

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 and hand-gilded molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: Remarkable, especially considering its age and rarity. The colors are strong and saturated. There is minor mothing and there is minor soiling and staining. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type:
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Hawaii
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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