|ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH 13 HAND-SEWN STARS IN AN EXTREMELY RARE LINEAL CONFIGURATION OF 5-3-5, PROBABLY MADE WITH THE INTENT OF USE BY LOCAL MILITIA OR PRIVATE OUTFITTING OF A VOLUNTEER COMPANY, CIVIL WAR PERIOD, 1861-1865
|Frame Size (H x L):||48" x 65.5"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||36" x 53.5"|
|We have made 13 star flags in America from at least 1777, when the first Flag Act was passed, until the present. Since that time, they have been continuously produced for reasons both patriotic and utilitarian. Because this was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the 13 colonies, it was keenly appropriate for any device made in conjunction with notions of American independence. They were hoisted at patriotic events of all kinds, including Lafayette’s final visit to the U.S. in 1825-1826, the celebration of our nation’s centennial of in 1876, annual observances of Independence Day, and countless others.
From at least 1840 onward, 13 star flags were produced for presidential campaigns, drawing a parallel between the past and present struggles for freedom, and were carried by soldiers during the Mexican and Civil Wars for the same purpose. Throughout history, and even today, they are boldly displayed at every presidential inauguration.
13 star flags were flown by American ships both private and federal. The U.S. Navy employed the 13 star count on small boats, because they wished the stars to be more discernable at a distance. Private ships often copied Navy practice, and when commercial flag makers first began to produce flags in small sizes, with pieced-and-sewn construction, in significant quantities, they frequently employed the 13 star count.
So what’s so special about this particular flag? Dating to the Civil War period (1861-65), it is one of a tiny number that exist on which the stars arranged in staggered, lineal rows of 5-3-5. Because there was no official configuration until 1912, when the 47th and 48th stars were added, the design, prior to that time, was left to the whims of the maker. Among surviving examples numerous variations are seen with some frequency. The 3-2-3-2-3 pattern is most common in the latter 19th century, through the beginning of the 20th. This is followed in popularity by a configuration that consists of a wreath of 8 stars, surrounding single center star, with a flanking star in each corner of the blue canton.
Next up the ladder, in terms of scarcity, would be something known as the “3rd Maryland” pattern, that displays a circular or oval wreath of 12 stars, with a star in the center, and a 4-5-4 row arrangement. Then there are other, much rarer designs, such as the Trumbull pattern (a square or rectangle with a single center star), snowflakes (typically consisting of two widely spaced wreaths with a center star), and an arrangement where all of the stars are placed in the form of one big star, usually with 6 arms, like the Star of David (a version of what is known as the “Great Star” or "Great Luminary" pattern). Rows in any other count than 3-2-3-2-3 or 4-5-4 are especially rare and sought after by advanced collectors. These include 5-4-4, 4-3-4-2, and, among others, the 5-3-5 pattern on this flag.
The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and double- appliquéd (applied to both sides). The canton and stripes are made of wool bunting that has been pieced and joined with treadle stitching. There is a blended, hemp and flax fabric binding along the hoist, with two brass grommets. The thread is 3-ply cotton throughout.
Among major collections that are photographed and documented in printed text, only one contains a 13 star flag with a 5-3-5 design. This appears in "A Grand Old Flag," by Keim, Kevin and Peter, (2007, DK Publishing, New York), p. 35.
I previously owned two other 5-3-5 pattern flags, almost certainly produced by the same maker as the Keim example. Commercially made, one of these was stamped along the hoist with a fanciful maker's mark, though the text inside its shield-shaped border, was sadly illegible.
The other, while not marked in such fashion, was inscribed with the name of a man who I believe to have been a Civil War officer, that mustered in at the rank of Captain, on Staten Island, and may have served in similar capacity in a local militia company. Military officers, especially of a rank that typically led a unit, such as a captain, are always a logical choice of individuals to have possessed early flags. Because this type of flag was not congruent with U.S. Army regulations, yet is of a scale commensurate for hand-carrying, both appropriate for militia use and consistent with the general scale of other militia flags that I have encountered, I expect these scarce flags may likely have been produced and sold as militia colors.
All three of these 5-3-5 pattern flags, as well as the flag that is the subject of this narrative, are inner-related. All are the same basic scale and of the same general period, being of the Civil War era. While their construction and stitching differ slightly from one to the next, their general overall appearance is distinctly similar. In the other three cases, the stars are uniformly canted throughout, so that one point of each star is directed in the eleven o’clock position, when viewed on the obverse. On this flag they are canted the other way, so that one point is directed at one o’clock.
One other 5-3-5 pattern flag, also from the same maker, though smaller in size, is in the collection of a private club in New York City. It’s stars are canted at eleven o’clock. Just one other example, very different, and from a different maker, has been identified, for a total of just seven early 13 star examples with this rare arrangement.
The flag's relatively small size when compared to others made during the 19th century adds considerable appeal. In modern times, this flag might be considered large by the casual observer. Prior to the 1890’s, however, it is small when compared to its many counterparts with sewn construction. Printed parade flags (sometimes called hand-wavers) were generally three feet long or smaller, but flags with sewn construction were generally eight feet long and larger. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals, while today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism. The average 19th century sewn flag can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting. This is why many collectors prefer printed parade flags and smaller sewn flags, like this one.
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 has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color. The black fabric was washed to reduce 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 mount was then placed in a substantial, hand-gilded Italian molding with a wide, serpentine profile and a rippled inner edge. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: There is significant wear with associated loss along the binding. This was previously encased by a textile conservator in netting dyed to the same hue. There is a moderate loss at the fly end of the last white stripe, and very minor losses elsewhere, in limited areas. There are small losses in a couple of the stars, which are significantly oxidized to a golden brown color. There is moderate soiling in the white stripes and there is a minor blue stain in the first white stripe. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
|Collector Level:||Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1861|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1865|
|War Association:||1861-1865 Civil War|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|