|13 HALOED STARS IN A MEDALLION CONFIGURATION, ON AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG MADE FOR THE 1876 CENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
|Frame Size (H x L):
|21" x 25.5"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|11" x 15.25"
|13 star American parade flag, printed on a blended cotton and wool fabric. Made for the 1876 centennial of American independence, the stars are arranged in what is known as a medallion pattern. This consists of a wreath of 8 stars, surrounding a single, center star, with a star in each corner of the blue canton. Although this was a popular star configuration during the centennial era, this particular variety of 13 star flag is a rare one and I am presently aware of six or fewer in this style to exist.
The design exhibits several unusual and desirable characteristics. One of these is its large scale. At approximately 11 x 15”, most of its counterparts are but a quarter of this size. Even more notable are the stars, themselves, which appear in what is called a "haloed" design, with a thin white line that follows their perimeter. The fabric is also unusual. While known to have been employed in a few other varieties of printed flags, this is the only 13 star variant of any period known to have been produced in this wool & cotton blend.
This style of 13 star flag is known to have been printed alongside another variety of parade flag, in the same size, with 37 stars. I discovered this fact when I encountered 3 of each on the original bolt, uncut, positioned side-by-side. In the 37 star variety, about equally rare among surviving examples, the stars are arranged in an exceptionally rare diamond pattern. While the 37 star flag was still official in 1876, it was well known that at least one more state would be joining the Union that year. This caused most flag-makers to cease production in favor of 38 and 39 star flags. For this reason, 37 star flags were seldom produced for our nation's centennial, where 38 and 39 star counts were preferred, along with 13 star examples to commemorate the original 13 colonies. It is interesting to see 37 star examples that can be so obviously dated to that year specifically.
It is likely that these flags would have been specifically made for the Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, our nation's first World’s Fair, which served as the nucleus of the celebration its 100th birthday. Unusually parade flags were printed on cotton or silk, or sometimes even on paper, to be waved or displayed in short-term use at parades, patriotic or political events. Because cotton and paper absorb water, and because silk is not appropriate for long-term exposure to water, these materials are not optimal for long-term outdoor use. The reason for the inclusion of wool was that it sheds water, making it an obvious choice for flags that were to be used outdoors over an extended period. The Centennial Expo lasted for six months and this is the reason that some makers used wool or wool blends in small, decorative flags.
The most notable example of a flag in this exact style was formerly in the collection of Boleslaw and Marie D'Otrange Mastai. An image of its canton appears on page 173 of their landmark text, "The Stars and the Stripes" (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1973). The flag was later acquired by my good friend, collector Richard Pierce, and a full image of it appears in his book, "The Stars & The Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit" (J. Richard Pierce, 2005), p. 29. For many years this was the only known example. During roughly the same period of time there was but one known example of the 37 star, companion variety, which I personally bought and sold and was also in the Pierce collection. Today approximately 6 copies of the 13 star variety are known, all of which I have had the privilege to own.
This particular flag is bound along the hoist, top, and fly with treadle stitching. A treadle-sewn binding of plain weave, white muslin, in the form of an open sleeve, was added along the hoist by a former owner. Along this, near the top, on the obverse (front), there is a black inscription. Bled and faded, this quite clearly includes the letters “T” and “R,” possibly separated by a small “o.” The last letter is illegible. Likely this is the name or initials of a former owner. It was extremely common to mark flags in this manner, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, to indicate ownership.
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 background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount was placed in a gilded, distressed molding, to which a more narrow molding with a step-down profile and a surface that is a very dark brown, nearly black, with reddish highlights and undertones, was added as a cap. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to inquire for more details.
Condition: There are modest to moderate threadbare areas of loss in the star nearest to the top, hoist end corner, and in the the 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 11th, and 13th stripes, and a couple of minor losses elsewhere. Period fabric, of similar coloration, was placed behind the flag when it was mounted, for masking purposes. There is minor to modest water staining in the upper, fly end corner, and there are minor stains in the center of the flag, in the 8th and 9th stripes, and there is minor soiling elsewhere. The text along the hoist, as previously mentioned, has bled and faded. There is modest fading of the red stripes and blue canton. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
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