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  THE EARLIEST MARYLAND FLAG I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED IN PRIVATE HANDS, HAND-PAINTED, PAINTED BY “JOHN E. GRAFF,” SIGNED AND DATED “1874;” DEPICTS THE NEWLY ADOPTED STATE SEAL ON A WHITE GROUND, WITH A PENCILLED INSCRIPTION “WAMSUTTA,” AFFIXED TO ITS ORIGINAL WOODEN STAFF

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 71.5" x 51"
Flag Size (H x L): 8" x 37" on 63" Staff
Description....:
In spite of modern perception of the importance of flags and state symbols, most states did not actually adopt flags until the 20th century. Surprisingly, this includes some of the earliest additions to the Union, as well as the latest. While a select number of states, such as Pennsylvania and New York, had flags from their earliest beginnings of statehood, Maryland, which declared its independence on July 4th, 1776, and became the 7th state to ratify the Constitution, on April 28th, 1788, didn’t adopt a flag until 1904.

In spite of not having a flag, the colony of Maryland had a seal as far back as the 1st half of the 17th century, the general design of which actually carried into statehood. A two-sided seal—unusual not only among state seals, but pretty much everywhere else the world over—the obverse (front) featured Lord Baltimore with raised sword, on a charging horse, both in full armor. On the reverse, the central image was the Calvert family crest. This paid homage to George Calvert (1579-1632), the 1st Baron Baltimore, and consists of the black and gold, cross-hatched, Calvert family insignia in the upper left and lower right cantons, with the red and white, cross-botany insignia of the Crossland and/or Mynne families in the opposing position. The crosses are those of the Christian warrior or Paladin, with the three lobes at each end to represent the holy trinity.

The heraldic shield was flanked to either side by a farmer and a fisherman, with a closed helm and crown above, flag finials and a royal robe draping behind. One the obverse, around the perimeter, in Italian, was the motto: “Fatti Maschil, Parole Femine,” that roughly translates to: “Strong Deeds, Gentle Words.” On the reverse was yet another, with Christian reference, that read: “With Favor you Cover Him as with a Shield.” This was later changed to Latin, “Scuto bonæ voluntatis tuæ coronasti nos.”

Save for a period of crown rule between 1692 and 1715, this basic design remained in use through the American Revolution, until it was finally replaced in 1794. Within this era, on March 31st, 1777, the Maryland Council officially authorized its continued use.

The seal of 1794 was very different. Designed by American painter, Charles Willson Peale, famous for one of the most iconic oil on canvas portraits of George Washington, the new format featured Lady Justice, standing above a crossed olive branch and liberty pole, on the obverse, with a ship, sheaves of wheat, tobacco leaves, a barrel, and a cornucopia on the reverse. A new motto, on the reverse, this time in English, read: "Industry the Means, Plenty the Result."

In 1817, the seal was once again replaced. Now one-sided, this featured a federal eagle with a patriotic shield, absent of any state-associated symbolism.

In 1854, the Calvert Arms—the shield of which would eventually become the state flag, in elongated, rectangular format—was reintroduced to the seal, in place of the federal shield, with the federal eagle remaining above. A new slogan in Latin, as opposed to Italian, was included. This read: “Crescite et Multiplicamini,” or “Increase and Multiply,” a Biblical reference to Genesis 9:7, “Be Fruitful and Multiply.” Because the new seal was carved of wood, inaccuracies grew as it was copied for various uses. In 1874, another version was adopted that basically corrected the inaccuracies in the Calvert Arms, removed the eagle, and basically returned the seal to its original state, 17th century form, with Lord Baltimore on the opposite side. But this time it was decreed that the reverse, with the state arms, would be the side actually used for its official function as a seal.

Hand-painted on white, plain weave cotton, now heavily oxidized to a golden tan, this extremely unusual flag features a rendition of the newly adopted, 1874 Maryland State Seal as its central device. Note the unusual feature present in the cross botany, the arms of which are black and white instead of red and white. It also appears that the white portion, which is slightly transparent, may have first been painted with light blue, that now bleeds through from behind. This is not especially noticeable at first glance, but becomes more apparent once recognized, varying with the angle from which it is viewed, as well as with varying light conditions. I was able to find some early examples of the Calvert Arms with blue instead of white, but this is the only instance I have thus far encounter with the black and white crosses. From my rather extensive experience with state and federal devices, rendered between the opening of the 20th century and prior, none of this is unexpected. Variation tends to be the rule as opposed to the exception. The quality of available sources for artists to reference is likely the reason for most of the discrepancies. Some may have worked from tiny prints, some from verbal descriptions only, and most probably without a color map. Even now, with on-line sources of all kinds, trying to find even single, accurate images or descriptions from any particular point in time is difficult. This is one reason why early examples are so interesting.

The name “John E. Graff” is painted along the hoist end in red pigment, , towards the bottom, adjacent to the binding, followed by the date of “July 4th, 1874.” This would most certainly have been the name of the maker of the flag, and/or the painter, who were probably one-in-the-same. The year is the same year in which a new version of the seal was approved. The name “Wamsutta” is penciled along the binding in the same position, though nearer to the top. This would be the name of a former owner, and it was common to mark flags in this fashion for ownership during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In spite of being well acquainted with the task, and often fairly successful at it, given enough information, I have thus-far been unable to identify either individual. It is, nonetheless, remarkable to find anything in a 19th century flag that is signed and dated.

The white cotton was hemmed along the hoist and fly with hand-stitching, and a binding of herringbone weave, twill cotton tape was hand-stitched along the hoist. Though the top and bottom edges have selvage, they were, for some reason, also turned over and bound with a lineal, treadle stitch. A narrow, red, woolen fringe (mostly now absent), with a decorative inner edge, has a visible line of treadle stitching as part of its construction, but was hand-sewn to the flag itself along the top, bottom, and fly ends. Lengths of wool yarn remain on the staff, tied in a bow knot above the flag. These were once almost certainly decorated with a woolen tassel at each end. The flag was affixed to the staff in a very unusual manner, with broad widths of hand-stitching at six intervals along the hoist. There is zinc collar at the top of the staff, with a red-painted, spear-shaped finial.

Though examples of flags with the Maryland state seal are known to have been produced, mostly to be carried by Civil War units—both Union and Confederate—their number was tiny, and what survives is even smaller. All that I know of are in state or museum collections. All that I have heard of or seen have dark blue fields, though one may be black. I am unaware of any with a white ground.

Further, this is the only example of a Maryland state flag of any kind that I have ever seen for sale that dates to the 19th century, a full 30 years before Maryland even adopted a flag, or any other sort of large format textile or banner with the Culvert Arms. Even if you extend this window into the 20th century, I have never seen any Maryland flag of any sort of that decade that was especially interesting. This is why this hand-painted, signed and dated, 1874 flag, with its white background and remnants of red fringe, on its original staff, was such a remarkable find.

Some Notes on the Origin of the Present Maryland State Flag:
The first appearance of the Calvert and Crossland colors seems to have occurred in 1888, when a large flag in this format was carried by Maryland National Guard troops. This took place while escorting Governor Elihu E. Jackson, at the dedication ceremonies for the Maryland monument at the Gettysburg Battlefield. A year later, the Fifth Regiment of the Maryland National Guard adopted a flag in this form as its regimental colors. The Fifth Regiment thereby became the first organization to adopt officially what is today the Maryland State flag.

Organized in May 1867, the Fifth Regiment was the successor organization to the Old Maryland Guard, a military unit formed in Baltimore in 1859, that dissolved when most of its officers and men went south, in 1861 to join the Confederate Army. True to its heritage, the Fifth consisted primarily of Maryland-born, former Confederate officers and soldiers. Originally denounced as a "Rebel Brigade," it had, by the 1870's, become Maryland's premier military organization, attracting Union veterans as well as former Confederates. The Fifth was the largest component of Maryland's military after 1870 and played a conspicuous part in major public events, both within and outside the state. Their use of the flag is generally thought to have been the most influential factor by which the design gained popularity.

Mounting: The price of the flag includes conservation mounting and framing 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 black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is moderate to significant oxidation throughout, along with areas of moderate to significant water staining. There is some fabric breakdown along the top edge of the flag, most significant near the hoist end, where the fabric came in contact with the zinc hoist, when the flag was rolled for storage. This attracted condensation. Approximately 1/3 of the red woolen fringe is absent, and about ½ of what remains is significantly soiled. There is no restoration. The extreme rarity of anything Maryland-related, that pre-dates the 20th century, well-warrants the present state of preservation.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1874
Latest Date of Origin: 1874
State/Affiliation: Maryland
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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