Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 16" x 20.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 8.25" x 12'"
Printed on coarse, glazed cotton, this 13 star American parade flag is one of just three or four known examples in this approximate size, in this rare style. 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.

Though the reason behind the decision to select this particular design is not known, 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 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.

All surviving 19th century flags with this star design are extremely scarce, but this one is particularly rare. Probably made between the 1840’s and 1860, it is known in two sizes, both of which are represented by fewer than 5 known flags. At approximately 8 x 12 inches, this is the larger of the two variants. The smaller is approximately 5 x 8 inches. The upper end of this date window coincides with Abraham Lincoln’s first campaign for the White House. One of the 5 x 8-inch examples, similar in design and scale, was found in Elmira New York and is overprinted with black text that reads "Lincoln & Hamlin.” Although none of the others share this political advertising, I suspect that all of the flags in this style were produced with the intent that they be displayed at political events. One of the other known examples, in the 8 x 12-inch variety, survives on its original wooden staff, which has a square shape instead of the round dowels most typically encountered. Square and otherwise crude staffs are an early trait, and, in addition to the manner of printing, fabric, and colors, and the existence of the 1860 overprinted Lincoln campaign flag, help to date this particular variety. Note the irregularity of the crude weave of the fabric, which sweeps backwards in an almost serpentine fashion from the fly towards the hoist end.

Prior to the Civil War (1861-1865), there was very little private use of the American flag. Most pre-war parade flags, printed on cotton or silk, made for the Civilian market, seem to have been employed in political rallies. That is the most likely purpose of this particular flag, a masterpiece among its counterparts and an exceptional example for any collection.

  13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. They were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette's visit in 1825-26, the celebration of the nation’s centennial in 1876, 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 black-painted, tramp art frame dates to the period between 1850 and the 1880’s. Nearly as outstanding as the flag itself, this retains exceptional, early, black-painted surface. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for color fastness. 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 some foxing and staining along the hoist, where the flag was one affixed to a wooden staff. There are minor flecks of staining in limited areas, the most significant of which occurs in the last white stripe, below the canton. There are pinprick-sized holes, of little to no consequence, accompanied by minor to moderate loss, at and adjacent to the fly end, in the 4th white stripe, a modest hole near the end of the 5th white stripe, and a small tear and moderate losses at and hear the end of the last red stripe. There is modest soiling towards the fly end of the striped field. 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: Parade flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1848
Latest Date of Origin: 1860
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD

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