|ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH 13 STARS ARRANGED IN 6-POINTED GREAT STAR / STAR OF DAVID PATTERN, OF A TYPE MADE FOR THE 1876 CENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, WORN AND HAND-INSCRIBED BY THE OWNER IN 1896, IN SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS, IN CELEBRATION OF THE VICTORY OF REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT-ELECT WILLIAM McKINLEY; FORMERLY IN THE COLLECTION OF RICHARD PIERCE
|Frame Size (H x L):||11.5" x 10.5"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||3" x 5" on a 6" staff|
|13 star American national parade flag, printed on coarse, glazed cotton. The stars are arranged in a six-pointed version of what is known as the "Great Star" or "Great Luminary" pattern, which is distinguished by one large star made out of smaller ones. All surviving 19th century flags with this star pattern fall between extremely scarce and extremely rare. This variety is of a type produced for the 100th anniversary of American independence in 1876, though this particular flag gained some more interesting history in the last decade of the 19th century. An inscription that runs through all six white stripes, written with a dip pen, reads as follows:
Worn Nov. 6 , 1896.
At the parade in Salem to celebrate the Republican victory.
Josh rode Baby in this parade
McKinley & Gold
Flags with hand-written inscriptions are some of the most endearing within the realm of flag collecting, humanizing their function. In this example, the whimsical, graphic qualities of the bold, saturated lettering, make it far more graphically compelling, in my opinion, elevating both the historical and visual properties of the object. In this instance, the flag records a victory parade in Salem, Massachusetts, in which, presumably, a child rode a horse, a pony, or some sort of animal with the given name of “Baby.”
Years ago I sold this wonderful little flag to my good friend, collector Richard Pierce, who featured it in his book, “The Stars & Stripes: Fabric of American Spirit” by J. Richard Pierce (J. Richard Pierce, LLC, 2005), on page 34. Richard’s own description of the election is as good and as concise as any I could formalize, included here with my thanks for his permission:
“The election of 1896 was a contrast in styles between William McKinley, with his “front porch” campaign, and flamboyant orator William Jennings Bryan, who traveled across the country making speeches before large audiences. In the end, the voters chose republican candidate McKinley, a strong supporter of the gold standard, by a convincing margin over Brian, an advocate of the pro-silver movement.
Congress passed the Gold Standard Act in 1900, establishing gold as the only standard for redeeming paper money and putting an end to bimetallism, a monetary system based on both gold and silver. The gold standard was revoked in 1933 when the federal government feared the depletion of its gold supply during the Depression years.”
Roger Wolcott (1847-1900), a Harvard-educated, Boston lawyer, served as a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature from 1881-1884. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1892, serving from 1893-1896, then became acting Governor following the 1896 death of fellow Republican Frederic T. Greenhalge. He was elected to the office that November—his victory also noted in the flag’s inscription—and served until 1900. In 1898, when the Span-Am war broke out, he secured monetary support for military action instantly, and was among the very first governors to supply troops to the war effort. He didn’t run again in 1900, instead deciding to travel to Europe with his family in May, while still in office. He did help his party campaign upon his return, but contracted typhoid fever and died that December.
It is of some patriotic interest to note that Wolcott’s wife, Edith Prescott Wolcott, (wed Sept. 2, 1874), was the great-granddaughter of Revolutionary War Colonel William Prescott, famous for his words at the Battle of Bunker Hill: “Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”
Brief Bio of President William McKinley
President William McKinley was born in Ohio in 1843. He enlisted as a private in the Union Army during the Civil War, achieving the rank of brevet major. He studied and practiced law before serving three terms in Congress and two terms as Governor of Ohio. His expertise was in tariffs and trade, and the McKinley Act of 1990 is named for him. Foreign policy dominated his time as president, and the most notable foreign event was the Spanish American War. McKinley was loath to begin the campaign, but congressional and American opinion forced his reluctant involvement. In just 100 days, the Spanish fleet was destroyed outside Santiago harbor in Cuba, Manila was seized in the Philippines, and the U.S. occupied Puerto Rico.
During his second term, McKinley became the 3rd president to be assassinated. On Sept. 6th, 1901, he was shot by Leon Czolgosz, a deranged anarchist, while attending the Pan Am Exposition in Buffalo. He died there eight days later and Teddy Roosevelt assumed the Presidency.
Notes Concerning the Six-Pointed Great Star Configuration:
Though the precise reason behind the decision to select the six-pointed Great Star pattern is unknown, several explanations are plausible. One is that it mimics the arrangement of stars found on the Great Seal of the United States, which appears in the cloud-like shape above the American eagle. This can be most ready viewed on the flag of the President of the United States, or the back of the current, U.S. dollar bill.
In present times, one might identify the design as the Star of David, though this symbol, also known as the Shield of David, was not in widespread use by members of the Jewish faith until the 20th century. It could be that the star configuration draws a connection between this particular flag and a historical example of the Revolutionary War era. No 18th century flags are presently known to have survived with this pattern, however, and I know of none that are illustrated in period paintings or drawings. It may be that the source was simply lost to time, but whatever the case may be, one may note that it does represent the most logical manner by which 13 stars may be arranged in a star-shaped pattern.
Why 13 Stars?
13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. In addition to their use at the centennial, they were hoisted at all manner of patriotic events, including Lafayette's visit in 1825-26, celebrations of Independence Day, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians in political campaigning for the same reason. The U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats until 1916, because it was easier to discern fewer stars at a distance on a small flag. Commercial flag-makers mirrored this practice, and some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy. 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.
Mounting: The flag was 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 exceptional, gilded molding has a beveled face, set between a flat cap and lip, with a shadowbox-style profile. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass. Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: There is minor to modest soiling along the hoist, some misprinting, and minor to modest bleeding of the ink. Many of my clients prefer early flags to display their age and history of use.
|Collector Level:||Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything|
|Flag Type:||Parade flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1876|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1896|
|State/Affiliation:||13 Original Colonies|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|