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  38 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN PARADE FLAG IN A SQUARE, BATTLE FLAG STYLE, PRINTED ON SILK, WITH BEAUTIFUL CORNFLOWER BLUE AND SCARLET RED COLORATION; POSSIBLY SOLD AS A KERCHIEF / BANDANNA; UNIQUE AMONG KNOWN EXAMPLES, PROBABLY MADE FOR THE 1888 CAMPAIGN OF BENJAMIN HARRISON; REFLECTS COLORADO STATEHOOD, 1876-1889

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 25.25" x 26.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 15.25" x 16.25"
Description....:
This unusual, square format, printed silk flag is of a type that could be tacked to a staff and waved as a traditional parade flag. Alternatively, it could be gathered and waved from the hand, as a kerchief or bandanna, or worn decoratively as such. At this time in America, flag ethics had not yet taken form, and had only recently begun to be considered.

The count of 38 stars reflects the addition of Colorado as the 38th state on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Per the Third Flag Act of 1818, stars were not officially added until the 4th of July following a state's addition. For this reason, 37 remained the official star count for the American flag in 1876. It was almost universally abandoned, however, as flag-making was a competitive venture, and few flag-makers wished to continue to produce 37 star flags, when their competitors were making 38’s. In fact, some flag-makers would have been adding a star for the 38th state even before it entered the Union, in the early part of 1876, or even prior. In fact, many makers of parade flags were actually producing 39 star flags, in hopeful anticipation of the addition of two more Western Territories instead of one. But the 39th state would not join the Union for another 13 years, when the Dakota Territory entered as two states (numbers 39 and 40) on the same day, on November 2nd, 1889.

A large series of patriotic textiles, such as this, were produced for the successful presidential campaign of Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Most bore the Republican Party slogan of “Protection to American Industries,” or text that conveyed a similar message. At least three different styles, including this one, were both square in shape and bore graphics that were entirely a flag, with no printed text to identify it as anything but that, and with no sort of political advertising.

The profile of this particular flag mimicked that of military battle flags, which were basically square in shape in early America, from the time of the American Revolution (1775-1883) through the First World War (American involvement 1917-1918). Having this shape lent itself to better identification when carried on foot, and better ease in doing so, because military colors needed to be as large as possible, but not drag on the ground, and have as little wind drag as possible. Being square had a positive effect on both of these things.

Whether looking like a battle flag was intentional or not, the proportions coincided with that of handkerchiefs and bandannas, which probably was a positive trait for a voting audience dominated by Civil War veterans, who would certainly be familiar with the form.

Of the three varieties of “all-over” flag kerchiefs that I am aware of, this is the only one that does not display a wide, white border on all sides, to identify it as more of a kerchief than a flag. It is also the rarest of the group and actually survives as the only example of it that I have ever encountered.

One of the other identified styles displays a square profile, 39 star flag within a white border, and a linear star pattern not too dissimilar from the 38 star example that is the focus of this narrative. The other known style displays 38 stars in a fanciful, bracketed, circular medallion, within a white border. Though more prevalent than the above two flags, this is likewise extremely scarce.

Logic would suggest that the rarity of all three is either indicative of the frequency of use of these textiles as kerchiefs, or due to the delicacy of the silk fabric, or perhaps both of the above. Whatever the case may be, note the beautiful shade of cornflower blue employed in the manufacture of the flag, and how beautifully it contrasts with the scarlet red stripes. While the pattern may appear ordinary to the casual observer, the arrangement of rows in counts of 8-7-7-8-8 is actually extremely unusual—an order that I don’t happen to recall having seen previously.

Note how the stars are oriented so that they are upside-down on their vertical axis, with two points up instead of one. No one knows if this positioning bore any particular meaning. Both modern notions of the correct orientation of a star, and the present official design of the American flag, dictate that the stars are supposed to have one point up. Since there was no official design for the flag until 1912, however, it may simply be that the maker of the flag did not consider any particular position to be right-side-up or upside-down. In the mid-19th century, it was not uncommon to see stars pointing in all directions, varied either randomly, or near randomly, throughout whatever arrangement was selected. Whatever the case may be, the feature present on this particular flag is unusual to the eye, adding an element of both academic and graphic interest to the presentation.

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 solid walnut frame dates to the 1870-1880’s era and retains its original gilded liner. 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 are various horizontal splits in the silk fabric, the majority of which are located in the blue canton. The longest of these extends through most of the canton, near the bottom edge, continuing through most of the adjacent red stripe. There is very minor fading of both the red and blue pigments, in limited areas, and there are small adhesive stains in each corner. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1889
State/Affiliation: Colorado
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD
 

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