|EXCEPTIONAL, HAND-SEWN, SILK FLAG WITH 13 GILT-PAINTED STARS ARRANGED IN THE "TRUMBULL” PATTERN, ONE OF JUST A TINY HANDFUL OF EARLY EXAMPLES TO SURVIVE IN THIS CONFIGURATION, FOUND IN SWITZERLAND, IN THE ESTATE OF A SWISS-AMERICAN WHO FOUGHT IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR; THIS FLAG MADE IN THE LATE FEDERAL –ANTEBELLUM PERIOD, circa 1824-1851
|Frame Size (H x L):||26"x 31.75"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||11.25" x 17"|
|13 star American national flag, in a tiny scale amongst pieced-and-sewn examples of the 19th century, and with a host of other interesting traits. The stars are arranged in what is known as the “Trumbull” pattern. This refers to a square or rectangle of stars—the latter of which is the case in this example—surrounding a single, center star. This is one of the most rare and desirable designs among early 13 star patterns, across which there are 80 or more identified configurations. Because there was no official star pattern until 1912, the design was left to the liberties of the maker. The same went for both overall proportions, shades of red and blue, the number of points on the stars, the size of the canton, and its placement within the striped field. The number of surviving flags in this design of the 19th century is miniscule, with perhaps fewer than 10 sewn examples. A small handful of printed parade flags are known in this design. Almost all of the known examples of any kind, printed or sewn, are of pre-Civil War origin.
The stars are applied in gilt paint to a canton made of plain weave blue silk. The stripes are made of silk ribbon, which allowed the maker to more easily join them together, without the necessity of flat-fell seams. All of the stitching throughout is accomplished by hand, including the joining of the stripes to themselves and to the canton, and the binding of the hoist and fly ends. There are two hand-sewn grommets, one each at the very top and bottom. A length of ribbon was found threaded through the lower grommet, evidently used to affix the flag to a staff, and one may assume that there was once a matching tie in the upper grommet, now absent. br />
One likely use of this flag was during General Lafayette's final journey to America, in 1824-1825, when he toured the country to a hearty, patriotic welcome. Other possibilities include the 1832 celebration of George Washington's 100th birthday, or the 75th anniversary of American independence in 1851.
The "Trumbull Pattern": Did George Washington Carry the Stars & Stripes?
Even though ground forces weren't formally authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until the 1830's, Washington at least is thought to have carried it and may have do so with some regularity. This seems logical for the command. The artist John Trumbull (1746-1853), Harvard graduate and son of the Governor of Connecticut, joined the Colonial Army in 1775, where among other appointments, he served as George Washington's aide-de-camp, as well as within the staff of General Horatio Gates.
Resigning his military commission in 1777, after a disagreement about the date of his military commission, Trumbull traveled to England to study art. Here he was introduced by Benjamin Franklin to American painter Benjamin West, now living abroad. Trumbull trained under West but was subsequently imprisoned for treason when a scapegoat was sought after a British officer of similar military rank to Trumbull’s former appointment was captured and hung in America. Six months later he was released and returned to America. After the war, he went back to England, where he was encouraged by West to paint significant American historical figures and American military scenes. He commenced doing so in 1785 and was especially prolific, producing more than 250 works within this genre.
Trumbull included American flags with his former commander in several versions of his most notable works. In three of them he depicted a star configuration that consisted of a single center star, set within a rectangular box of stars around the perimeter of the blue canton. These include:
The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton
In the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, painted sometime between 1789 and 1831.
Depicts the events of January 3rd, 1777.
The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, New York
Installed in the United States Capitol Rotunda in 1821, painted in 1821.
Depicts the events of October 17th, 1777.
The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia
Installed in the United States Capitol Rotunda in 1820, painted between 1820 and 1821 (one of at least 4 versions illustrating 4 different flags).
Depicts the events of October 19th, 1781.
None of these views were sketched or painted in first person, so it is uncertain whether the star patterns of the American flags in these particular paintings were accurate for that particular engagement. Further, while Trumbull would sometimes paint multiple copies of the same scene, changing both the star pattern and the color of the stripes, (sometimes red, white, and blue instead of just red and white,) he was nonetheless known for his attention to detail. In his book "Standards and Colors of the American Revolution," (1982, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 25), flag scholar Edward W. Richardson describes Trumbull as “meticulous to the accuracy of uniforms and accouterments … therefore, the flags depicted in [his] paintings should be considered as accurate versions of the time.”
One potential argument against this theory is that Trumbull had not only left the military at some point in 1777, but that the Battle of Princeton occurred more than 6 months before the First Flag Act was passed. At that time, given present knowledge, the Stars & Stripes didn't exist.
Perhaps there is reason to speculate as to whether the 13-star, 13-stripe American flag was actually being displayed prior to June 14th, 1777. If so, it might explain why the language used in the legislation to make it official was so brief. Perhaps it was already familiar to those involved.
Whatever the case may be, one can probably presume that American flags in the Trumbull pattern were being displayed somewhere during the Revolution.
Provenance: This flag was exhibited at the Museum of the American Revolution from June-July, 2019 in an exhibit entitled “A New Constellation.” Curated by Jeff Bridgman, this was the first ever large scale exhibition of 13 star flags 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 unusual, wide, solid walnut molding, appears to be of the 18th century, or perhaps the very beginning of the 19th century, with excellent, early, black-painted surface. This is a pressure mount between U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas) and 100% cotton twill, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness.
Condition: There is significant shattering in the silk stripes, below the canton, in the centermost portion of the flag, with minor to modest of the same elsewhere in the field. There are tiny holes along the hoist, in the canton, where it may have been tacked to a staff, in addition ot being affixed with ribbon ties at the top and bottom. There is moderate to significant fading of the red (pink) stripes, most severe toward the fly end, in an area that stars about 3/5 of the way toward the fly, sweeping back toward the hoist in a growing portion as it descends. There is moderate fading in places within the canton, especially surrounding the lower three stars on the fly-end side, and in smaller amounts elsewhere. There is significant pigment loss in the remaining silk tie. There is minor to modest, scattered soiling. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age in history of use. Further, the combination of an early date, and the extreme rarity of this star pattern, and the rarity of this type of flag, in silk, with gilt-painted stars, would warrant almost any condition. The flag presents beautifully, in spite of the aforementioned issues.
|Collector Level:||Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1824|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1851|
|State/Affiliation:||13 Original Colonies|
|War Association:||1777-1860 Pre-Civil War|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|