|COLORADO STATE FLAG OF EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY, MADE OF SILK, CIRCA 1911-1920’s, EXTRAORDINARILY RARE IN THIS PERIOD AND THE EARLIEST EXAMPLE THAT I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED
|Frame Size (H x L):||Approx. 65.5" x 78.5"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||54" x 67"|
|Early state flags are few and far between. While I am asked for them constantly, most states did not actually have official flags until the 20th century.
On May 6th, 1911, Colorado became among the last to adopt a design. The project of doing so was spearheaded by the Denver Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The bill was introduced by Senator W.H. Sharply and adopted by the Eighteenth General Assembly. The artwork was the product of A.C. [Andrew Carlisle] Carson, President of the Ohio Society of Colorado. The meanings behind the elements in the design are as follows: The large letter "C" stands for Colorado and simultaneously for the Centennial State (Colorado entered the Union in 1876, the year in which our nation celebrated its 100th anniversary of independence), as well as the Columbine State (reflecting the state flower). The red color is included due to the fact that the word Colorado translates to scarlet or red in Spanish. The circle represents the sun, while the gold color symbolizes all-the-year sunshine, Colorado’s status as the greatest gold state, and one Columbine color. It was also included so that the Colorado state flag would have one more color than the U.S. flag. The color white reflects Colorado’s status as the greatest silver state, its eternal mountain snow, and one Columbine color. Lastly, the shade of Yale blue symbolizes all-the-year blue sky and one Columbine Color. Members of the D.A.R. were proud to note that this was also their color.
Made sometime between the initial year of the adoption of this design and the 1920’s, this particular flag is the earliest Colorado example that I have ever encountered. The blue and white bars, red “C,” and golden circle are a’’ made of silk taffeta. This was a costly fabric, reserved for the best material a flag-maker produced. The flag is constructed in the manner of a battle flag, to be carried on foot. Squarish in its overall profile, silk was the fabric of choice for flags employed in this function, due to the fact that it was light weight, and thus practical for hand-carrying, while simultaneously formal in appearance, appropriate for the sort of ceremonial use that military presentation often demands. The style of the hoist is also typical for field or parade use. Here the fabric was rolled over to form an open sleeve, through which a wooden staff could be inserted. The sleeve is lined on the interior with black cotton. Leather tabs, at the top and bottom, fit over metal posts on the staff, designed to accept them, to fix the flag in its proper position.
The bars were pieced and joined with lineal machine stitching. The hoist and fly ends were finished and hemmed by the same method. The devices are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a machine buttonhole / blanket stitch. Though machines that produced buttonholes were, remarkably, available alongside the earliest standard machines, in the 1850’s and 60’s, the use of this sort of stitch in a running format, for appliqué work, remained highly unusual, even as late as the first half of the twentieth century, probably because it used a ton of thread when compared to the zigzag or satin stitch. It could be expected to appear more often in the hands of a maker of very fine flags, that employed embroidery machines and commissioned custom, fancy work of all sorts. Though unsigned—in no way uncommon in early examples, which were seldom signed—that is precisely the sort of firm that produced the Colorado flag that is the subject of this narrative.
The reasons why early and/or vintage state flags are so scarce are several. After many new flags were adopted as official symbols, very few seem to have been produced. Demand would have largely been limited to World's Fair pavilions and certain government locations. States didn't spend money in a fashion like they might today, before there were padded budgets for everything under the sun. To put things in clearer perspective, consider the fact that there was no Federal income tax until 1913, and most states didn't have income tax prior to the 1930's. Others didn't until the 1960's and 70's (and a tiny handful still don't). While states had other sources of revenue, suffice to say that things were very different at the point in time when most states were adopting flags.
In spite of the fact that this particular flag is made in the style of a hand-carried battle flag or ceremonial parade flag, it was probably made for a World’s Fair. Evidence of this is present on the reverse of the sleeve, near the bottom, where the number “38” was painted in white. This corresponds to Colorado’s 1876 admission as the 38th state, which means that the flag was almost certainly numbered to keep it in order among other flags that represented all of the states at the time.
There is a black cotton tag at the top of the hoist, on the obverse, applied with machine stitching, on which the word “Colorada” (note the misspelling) was hand-embroidered. The presence of this supports the theory that this flag was very likely hung, with many others, in an exhibit setting. The flag’s state of preservation suggests that it was used both indoors, and not over a period of extreme length.
The most likely events for which it was commissioned would be the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915-1916, in San Francisco, or the 1926 Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia.* Although fairs were held between 1930 and 1940, scarce resources were generally not squandered on anything but necessities during this era, as a result of the Great Depression (1929-1939). Silk flags were rare in this decade, and the style of the flag in question here is indicative of the teens, including WWI (U.S. involvement 19171-1918), and the twenties.
Due to the squarish format, attractive and unusual to the eye, plus the bold, yet manageable scale, the silk construction, and the very early date for a Colorado state flag, this is excellent example for any collector of Colorado material.
* Though another fair, called the Panama-California Exposition, was held in San Diego in 1915-1916, unlike the other two events, most states, including Colorado, did not host a pavilion.
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, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. Framing and U.V. protective acrylic are included.
Condition: Overall condition is nothing short of exceptional, especially for a silk flag of this period. There is extremely minor hole and wear along the sleeve area, in the extreme, upper, hoist end corner. The lining is intact on the interior, but both leather tabs experienced some dry rot and are broken. Some of the white painted used in the hand-painted number on the reverse of the sleeve is flaked off, though the number is still legible.
|Collector Level:||Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1911|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1929|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|