|13 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A 3-2-3-2-3 CONFIGURATION OF STARS AND STRONG PRESENTATION, WITH RICH COLORS AND SQUARISH PROPORTIONS, MADE CIRCA 1895-1926; EXHIBITED AT THE MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, JUNE-JULY 2019
|Frame Size (H x L):||38" x 46.25"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||26.5" x 34"|
|This 13 star antique American flag is of a type made during the last decade of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th. The stars are arranged in rows of 3-2-3-2-3, which is the most often seen pattern in 13 star flags of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries.
In most cases the 3-2-3-2-3 design can also be viewed as a diamond of stars, with a star in each corner and a star in the very center. It is of interest to note that the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern can also be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some feel could have been the design of the very first American flag and may identify a link between this star configuration and the British Union Jack. The pattern is often attributed--albeit erroneously in my opinion--to New Jersey Senator Francis Hopkinson, a member of the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, who is credited with having played the most significant role in the original design of the American national flag. Hopkinson's original drawings for the design of the flag have not survived and his other depictions of 13 star arrangements for other devices are inconsistent.
The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag machine stitch. One of the stripes is pieced from two lengths of fabric, which is a bit unusual in a commercially-made flag of this scale, in this period. The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with lineal, machine stitching. There is a heavy sailcloth canvas binding with two brass grommets.
Note how the profile of the flag is rather near to square, which is unusual for this type of 13 star flag, in this time frame, in particular, and lends significant visual interest. Because there were no official proportions for the Stars & Stripes until 1912, there were no requirements in this regard. That said, the vast majority of flags conformed to the sort of rectangular format that what one might expect today. Anything that deviates from that draws the attention of collectors of early flags, because of the impact it can have on overall presentation, as-is the case here.
Why 13 Stars? As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit their full complement on a small flag. The stars would, by necessity, have to become smaller, which made it more and more difficult to view them from a distance as individual objects. The fear was that too many stars would become one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas.
The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on its small-scale flags for precisely this reason. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states.
For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3 to 4 feet in length before the 1890's. There are exceptions to this rule, but until this time, the smallest sewn flags were typically 6 feet on the fly. The primary use had long been more utilitarian than decorative, and flags needed to be large to be effective as signals. Private use grew with the passage of time, however, which led to the need for long-term use flags of more manageable scale.
Beginning around 1890, flag-makers began to produce small flags for the first time in large quantities, namely with dimensions of 2 x 3 feet, or 2.5 x 4 feet. As previously mentioned, this particular example deviates some from the expected dimensions. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, commercial makers chose the 13 star count, rather than the full complement of stars, for sake of ease and visibility. Any flag that has previously been official remains so according to the flag acts, so 13 star flags remain official national flags of the United States of America.
The 13 star count has been used throughout our nation's history for a variety of purposes. In addition to being flown by the U.S. Navy, and on small commercial flags of the 1895-1920’s era, 13 star flags were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the nation's centennial in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926, as well as for annual celebrations of Independence Day. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty, and were used by 19th century politicians in political campaigning. The use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding a fouled anchor, which allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs between 1848 and 1980, persists today without an official purpose.
Provenance: This flag was presented from June 14th – July 21st at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, in an exhibit entitled “A New Constellation,” curated by Jeff Bridgman. This was the first ever, large scale exhibit of 13 star examples at a major museum.
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 flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support throughout. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric has been washed and treated for color fastness. The cove-shaped molding has a textured surface, a rope style inner lip, and a very dark brown surface, nearly black, with reddish highlights and undertones. To this a flat profile molding with a finish like old gunmetal was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).
Condition: There is extremely minor mothing, but there are no further condition issues.
|Collector Level:||Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1895|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1926|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|