Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  38 STAR FLAG WITH A VERY RARE CIRCLE-IN-A-SQUARE MEDALLION, SOLD BY HORSTMANN BROS. OF PHILADELPHIA, MADE FOR THE 1876 CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 36" x 47"
Flag Size (H x L): 25" x 36"
Description....:
38 star American national parade flag with an exceedingly rare type of medallion star pattern. This consists of a huge center star, surrounded by a wreath of stars, with a square of stars surrounding the perimeter. I have seen fewer than 25 flags with variations of this circle-in-a-square design, making it significantly more rare than the equally beautiful "great star" pattern. They are so rare that even major collectors like Boleslaw Mastai didn't own one. Mastai wrote the first major text on flag collecting and accumulated several hundred examples.

Many fantastic star patterns were made in the patriotism that accompanied or nation's 100-year anniversary of independence in 1876 and this is among the best of all examples. Note that the vertical alignment of the stars varies greatly, and that the center star tilts in the 1:00 position. With the exception of the 20 star flag, there were no regulations concerning either star configuration or position until 1912, and many flag-makers went out of their way to catch the attention of potential buyers.

In addition to its attractive star configuration, this flag has a couple of other unusual traits among known examples. One is its size. This flag came in two or three sizes, of which this is the largest and the most scarce.

This flag was made for Horstmann Brothers (also called Horstmann & Sons at one time), a major military outfitter, as noted by the blank inked stamp along the flag's sewn cotton sleeve that reads:

HORSTMANN
PHILA.

This is accompanied by a notation of its size, "2 x 3 feet" and the signature of a former owner, now illegible. Horstmann did not make their own flags, but put their name on many of the things they sold. I know of only one other examples of this flag with a sewn sleeve and the Horstmann stamp. The sleeve adds to the presentation and, in combination with the large size, makes it the best parade flag with this star configuration that I have encountered.

Due to the fact that the seller was located in Philadelphia, and the fact that this flag was found in the Philadelphia area, and the fact that the Centennial International Exposition, a major World's Fair event, took place in the same city, it is logical to assume that Horstmann supplied these flags for the centennial celebration.

Press-dyed wool flags are rarer than those printed on cotton and silk. Large printed wool flags are not uncommon in this period, but small parade flags, like this one, are much more scarce. Most parade flags were made of cotton because cotton was inexpensive and such flags were often intended for one day's use only at a specific parade, political rally, a reunion of soldiers, or some other patriotic event. The Centennial Expo went lasted for six months, requiring decorative flags that would last for a longer period. It is reasonable to assume that press-dyed wool flags were made for just such a purpose, because wool sheds water is more appropriate than cotton for extended outdoor use.

The 38th state, Colorado, joined the Union on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation's centennial of independence from Great Britain. Although 37 was the official star count in 1876, flag-making was a competitive venture and no one wanted to be making 37 star flags when others were making 38's. It is for this reason that 38 and 13 (to reference the original 13 colonies) are the two star counts most often seen during the centennial events. The 38 star flag was generally used until 1889, when four new states joined the Union. Decorative star patterns, however, like this one, tend to be seen on 38 star flags that were made specifically for centennial events.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric was washed to remove excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The flag was sewn to 100% natural fabrics for support, with stitches run down every stripe and throughout the star field. A combination of 100% silk and period wool bunting were used for masking purposes and to strengthen the color of the flag against the supportive and background fabrics. The mount was then placed in a black painted, hand gilded and distressed, contemporary Italian molding. The front is u.v. protective plexiglas.

Condition: There is minor foxing and staining, accompanied by areas of minor and moderate fabric loss. These are primarily from use and the flag has a degree of mothing that is almost negligible. The flag presents beautifully and is maybe the most striking I have ever had in this style. Its condition is well-warranted by the fact that it probably flew for six months during the Centennial Expo, and by its great rarity among surviving examples. Many collectors prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Colorado
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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