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43 GILT-PAINTED STARS ON A SILK, ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH BULLION FRINGE; REFLECTS THE ADDITION OF IDAHO AS THE 43RD STATE ON JULY 3RD, 1890, ONE OF THE RAREST STAR COUNTS AMONG SURVIVING AMERICAN FLAGS OF THE 19TH CENTURY

43 GILT-PAINTED STARS ON A SILK, ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH BULLION FRINGE; REFLECTS THE ADDITION OF IDAHO AS THE 43RD STATE ON JULY 3RD, 1890, ONE OF THE RAREST STAR COUNTS AMONG SURVIVING AMERICAN FLAGS OF THE 19TH CENTURY

Web ID: 43j-805
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 89" x 120"
Flag Size (H x L): 77" x 108"
 
Description:
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 10-12 examples. 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 the majority of these.

Although too large to be hand-carried, this exceptional flag was made in the style of United States Infantry battle flags of the time. Made entirely of fine silk, the canton and stripes of the flag are hand-sewn with great care and precision. The flat-fell seams are tiny and the stitching is extraordinary throughout, with careful use of various colors of thread as required for the best results. By 1890, few flags were hand-sewn in this fashion, especially in the piecing of stripes, which could easily be joined with a treadle machine. The stars are executed in gilt paint, like those that appear on the majority of Civil War, Union Army battle flags. These are arranged in what may seem like a peculiar layout of staggered rows, in counts of 8-7-7-7-7-7, with the initial star in the first row off-set, but with the last star right-justified, so as to line up with those in the 3rd and 5th rows. This configuration, with its curious method of alignment, must have appeared in a photo of some nature that was widely distributed, because the same design appears on more than half of the known and very rare examples of 43 star flags, which otherwise vary drastically their manner of construction. This is made even more interesting by the fact that there was no official star pattern for the American national flag until 1912, so the design was left completely to the whims of the maker, or to the individual that commissioned the manufacture of any particular flag.

A metallic, gold bullion fringe is hand-sewn along the top, bottom, and fly end. The red, white, and blue fabric of the canton and the striped field below it were rolled over and hand-stitched. This was lined with lightweight cotton for reinforcement. A leather tab is hand-sewn into the lower opening of the sleeve, but there is no evidence of a corresponding tab at the top, and there is no evidence that one was ever present. Though leather tabs of this sort are typical on many silk flags, the manner of stitching on the lower one suggests that this feature was added by the buyer, or perhaps an outfitter that sold it, as opposed to the flag-maker.

Although there is no specific history of use, this is a ceremonial flag, made in military fashion, that may have seen military use of some sort. The colors of the flag are saturated and strong. The fabric is lustrous and the gilt-painted stars are beautiful. In summary, this is one of the rarest star counts that there is among antique American flags, on a stunning, hand-sewn flag, made of the finest materials available.

Mounting: The flag has been 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 moderate to significant breakdown with associated loss along the fly end, accompanied by a number of minor splits elsewhere throughout, a couple with minor loss, the most significant of which is in the canton, between the 3rd and 4th rows of stars. There is minor to modest loss in the bullion fringe. There is very minor water staining and very minor soiling in the white stripes and there is modest of the same along the hoist end. There is a small cluster of very small brown spots in the white stripe beneath the canton, in addition to a number of even more minor incidents of the same elsewhere throughout. There is minor gilt loss in the stars from creasing and splits. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The flag presents beautifully.
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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: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com


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