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  31 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A RARE AND BEAUTIFUL PENTAGON MEDALLION CONFIGURATION OF STARS; REFLECTS THE PERIOD WHEN CALIFORNIA WAS THE MOST RECENT STATE TO JOIN THE UNION, 1850-1858; THE ONLY EXAMPLE IN THIS EXACT FORM THAT I HAVE ENCOUNTERED

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 13.5" x 17.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 5" x 9.5
Description....:
31 star American national parade flag, block-printed on cotton. The stars are arranged in a rare and interesting pattern that falls within a classification that I have termed "pentagon" or "heart" medallions. I have encountered variants of this on printed flags displaying star counts of 31, 33, 34, and 35, spanning the period of roughly 1850 to 1865. The basic profile of these star patterns consists of a pentagon-shaped outline. In some cases the pentagon is less distinct than other. In this flag, however, it is rather clearly presented, with two, consecutive, 5-sided formations of stars, surrounding a single, large, center star. The overall design is flanked by 5 additional stars, including one in each corner, and one directly below it.

Some of the variants contain a "Great Star" pattern, a large star made out of smaller stars, hidden in the middle. Taking note of the slight indentation of the stars placed in roughly the 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, and 8:00 positions, to hug the profile of the center star, one might argue that such a design is present here, and that the inner-most pentagon is truly intended to be a Great Star. Some of the other known examples of pentagon medallions share this feature.

In some cases, the pentagon begins at the top but the overall pattern morphs into a shield. In others, one or two hearts appear within the arrangement, though perhaps not intentionally. Though no shield is present here, the hearts are visible, with a little imagination. While the reason for the alternate name, “heart medallion” may seem difficult to absorb, when viewing this example by itself, it becomes far more obvious in some of the 33 star variants. I would think the hearts purely unintentional, if it were not for some of the 33 star examples, and if the single star along the bottom, outside the pentagon, had some better explanation.

Whatever the case may be regarding the symbolism in the canton, the star design is both beautiful and intriguing. Prolific flag-maker H.C. Howard of Philadelphia is known to have produced designs with these unusual, pentagon formations.

California became the 31st state in 1850, ushered in on the heels of the 1849 Gold Rush. The 31 star flag became official the following year, on July 4th, 1851 and remained so until July 3rd, 1858, following the addition of Minnesota as the 32nd state.

Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. Private use of the national flag rose swiftly during the patriotism that accompanied the Civil War, then exploded in 1876 during the centennial of American independence.

Even the military did not use the flag in a manner that most people might think. The primary purpose before the Civil War was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark some garrisons, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment, with a design peculiar unto itself, and perhaps a standard that featured the numeric designation on a painted or embroidered streamer, on a solid buff yellow or blue ground. Most people are surprised to learn that ground forces were not authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until it was assigned to artillery regiments in 1834. Infantry was afforded the privilege in 1841, just prior to the Mexican War (1846-1848), while cavalry regiments were not authorized until the second year of the Civil War, in 1862.

The only regular non-military use of the flag between 1840 and 1861 was for political campaigning. The most likely display of this particular flag was at a political rally, either in 1852, when Whig candidate for the White House, Franklin Pierce, successfully ran against Democrat General Winfield Scott, and the nation was simultaneously celebrating its 75th birthday, or else in 1856, when James Buchannan of Pennsylvania overtook both former President Millard Fillmore, representing the Know-Nothings, and Republican John Fremont of California.

All of the surviving parade flags in variants of this star pattern, across all of the known star counts in which it occurs, display printed advertising for political campaigning. In other words, I have never seen a pentagon medallion parade flag without political advertising, and, in the case of this particular flag, I have never seen an example in this size. It presently survives as the only known example.

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 fantastic, American molding, with original, paint-decorated surface, dates to the period between 1830 and 1860. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. 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 oxidation and soiling in the white stripes, and there are extremely minor losses at the top and bottom, along the hoist end. There is a vertical striation in the fabric, occurring approximately three-quarters to three-fifths of the way across the length of the flag, toward the fly end.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 31
Earliest Date of Origin: 1850
Latest Date of Origin: 1858
State/Affiliation: California
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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