Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  33 STARS IN A MEDALLION CONFIGURATION ON A LARGE SCALE PARADE FLAG, AN EXTREMELY RARE EXAMPLE, OREGON STATEHOOD, 1859-1861

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 38.5" x 54"
Flag Size (H x L): 26.5" x 42"
Description....:
This 33 star American parade flag, printed on coarse, glazed cotton, is an especially large and visually attractive example and is one of perhaps just ten or so known to exist in this rare style. The design consists of a cross of 5 stars in the center, surrounded by 2 consecutive wreaths, with 2 flanking stars outside the primary pattern, placed toward the fly end. Typically there are 4 flanking stars outside this type of pattern, placed one in each corner. The inclusion of only two was intentional, leaving room for the easy addition of two more states. Flag-makers knew that more Western Territories were soon to follow and eagerly anticipated their arrival.

Note that the star in the very center of the configuration is actually a hair smaller than the rest. This may have not been precisely intentional, but it is an interesting peculiarity. The size of the flag is especially large among parade flags, which are typically 3 feet long or smaller. Piece-and-sewn flags of this era, by contrast, are generally 8 feet long and larger. Because flags measuring greater than 3 feet and less than 6 feet are much more unusual than the remainder of their counterparts, especially with dynamically visual star patterns, and because this size range is manageable to display in an indoor setting, flags that meet these two criteria are especially desirable among both serious collectors and one-time buyers alike.

The flag that is the subject of this narrative was found with a small group of like kind. Before their discovery, only three others were known in this exact style. One was formerly part of the collection of Boleslaw and Marie D’Ostrange-Mastai, who held one of the most important private collections of American flags in the country and whose book, "The Stars and the Stripes" (knopf, New York, 1973), was the first major reference on the subject of flag collecting. The Mastai example was not pictured in their text, but was a part of their substantial, undocumented holdings.

Oregon entered the Union as the 33rd state on February 14th (Valentines Day), 1859. The 33 star flag was official from 1859-1861, and was thus still the official flag when Ft. Sumter was fired upon on April 12th of that year. This event marked the beginning of the Civil War, and a 33 star flag was flying at Ft. Sumter during the attack. Because the 34th state, Kansas, had already acquired statehood on January 29th, 1861, the 34 star flag was to become official on July 4th. For this reason, 33 star flags were not generally not produced for the war, which would last until 1865, and 33 star flags were generally made pre-war. It is for this reason that 33 star examples are far-and-away more scarce than their 34, 35, and 36-star counterparts.

Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. The only consistent private use prior to 1861 seems to have accompanied political campaigning.

Even the military did not use the national flag in a manner that most people might think. Most people are surprised to learn that the infantry wasn't authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until well into the 19th century. The foremost purpose before the Civil War (1861-65) was to identify ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark garrisons and government buildings, the flags of ground forces were limited to the those of their own regiment and a perhaps a federal standard (a blue or buff yellow flag bearing the arms of the United States). Artillery units were the first to be afforded the privilege in 1834. Infantry followed in 1841, but cavalry not until 1862. The first actual war in which the Stars & Stripes was officially carried was thus the Mexican War (1846-48). In more than 20 years of aggressive buying and research, I have encountered almost no American national flags produced in an obvious military style that are of the Mexican War period.

Note how the strong shades of indigo blue and sunfire red create a striking contrast that is especially attractive. When combined with the large scale, a pre-civil war star count, extreme rarity, and interesting star pattern, the result is a flag worthy of any major collection.

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 preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black-painted and hand-gilded molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is modest to moderate breakdown in the white stripes, below the canton, at and adjacent to the hoist end, with some associated losses. There are minor tears and losses in the white area along the hoist end, adjacent to the canton, where the flag was affixed to its original wooden staff. There is some shrinkage in the white stripes along the fly end. There is a lateral split between the first and second stripe across 4/5 of its length, and much smaller splits adjacent to the fly end, between the 7th and 8th, 9th and 10, and 12th and 13th stripes. There is modest foxing and staining in the last 3 white stripes at both the hoist and fly ends. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 33
Earliest Date of Origin: 1859
Latest Date of Origin: 1861
State/Affiliation: Oregon
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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