Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  34 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG, HOMEMADE AND WITH HAND-SEWN STARS, ARRANGED IN AN UNUSUAL LINEAL PATTERN THAT HAS A SINGLE COLUMN OF 4 STARS BETWEEN COLUMNS OF 5; OPENING TWO YEARS OF THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-1863, LIKELY FIELD CARRIED, REFLECTS KANSAS STATEHOOD

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 51.25" x 83.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 39.5" x 70.25"
Description....:
34 star American national flag, homemade and in a great, small size among pieced-and-sewn examples of the Civil War period. The stars are arranged in a lineal configuration that I have not before encountered. This consists of a column of 4 stars, flanked to either side by 3 columns of 5. Made of plain weave cotton, hand-sewn, and double-appliquéd (applied to both sides), these are stitched to a blue canton made of fine, merino wool. The stripes are made of cotton that has been joined with very narrow seams, by treadle stitching. There is a treadle-sewn binding along the hoist, with 9, hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommets, through which 5 sets of twill tape, cotton ties are threaded.

Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about 2 ½ months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but most flag makers would have added a 34th star at the time of Kansas’ arrival, if not even before that day—a practice that became common during the latter 19th century. This star count remained official until July 4th, 1863, and 34 star flags would have generally been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year, 11 days before the Battle of Gettysburg.

Given the period of the flag’s manufacture, its size, the way it was affixed to the hoist, and the wear it exhibits, this particular example was almost certainly hand-carried. At approximately 40" x 70", this example is significantly smaller—on the hoist especially—than 72” x 78” regulation infantry battle colors, it likely served a Civil War unit as a company flag. Volunteer units were many times outfitted by local organizations, or by wealthy individuals, and were frequently presented with flags by the same, or by various women related to the soldiers leaving for war. Even when state and federal-issued colors arrived, flags with emotional attachment, or practical purpose, might still be regularly employed. Because military issue infantry flags of the time were (and remain to be) surprisingly large to anyone unfamiliar with them, presentation flags were frequently smaller.

In spite of how it may appear, the size of the flag is actually fairly small among its counterparts, made for extended outdoor use, prior to 1890. During the 19th century, flags with pieced-and-sewn construction, as opposed to those that were printed on cloth, were typically eight feet long or larger. Garrison flags were typically thirty-five feet on the fly. This is because they were important in their use as signals, which needed to be visible from a distance, or above the smoke on a battlefield. A six-foot example, like this flag, was actually considered small.

Most commercially-made flags, produced for long-term, outdoor use, were constructed of wool bunting. Because this was a commercial grade fabric, produced specifically for flags and banners and unsuitable for clothing, is an uncommon find on a homemade flag. It was probably not widely available outside ships’ chandleries and various wholesale sources. Because it absorbs water, plain weave cotton was a poor selection for the making of flags for outdoor use. Nonetheless, it was the fabric of choice for most homemade flags, because it was lightweight, inexpensive, and widely available. During this era, most private individuals substituted another type of fabric for the canton of cotton flags, such as merino wool or a blended wool fabric of similar weight, apparently because solid blue cotton became scarce with the onset of war and the demand for blue fabric in the North. By 1876, flags with cotton stripes typically had cotton cantons.

Note how the orientation of the stars, on their vertical axis, varies from one to the next. This adds a nice degree of folk quality to the design, as does their unusual configuration. Note also how the cotton ties add a degree of movement, and how the attractive and endearing wear lends substantial impact. The combination of all of the above, plus the Civil War date, results in a wonderful example of the period, conveying both its age and expected function, during the opening two years of the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil.

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% hemp fabric, ivory in color. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is modest to moderate water staining throughout the white fabric, and there is modest fading of the red dye. There is a large, almost vertical tear, with stitched repair, in the bottom, fly-end corner of the canton, accompanied by another significant separation above it, right along the edge. There is a moderate to significant hole that spans above and below the 3rd star down, in the column of 4, and there are more modest to minor losses elsewhere in the blue fabric. There are modest holes near the center of the flag, in the 2nd and the 6th stripes, plus another that bridges between the 8th and 9th. There is another such area between the 9th and 10th stripes, below the canton. Period fabric of similar coloration was placed behind these areas, during the mounting process, for masking purposes. There are other minor to moderate tears and holes elsewhere in the flag, particularly near the fly end. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. In some cases, wear and losses can actually add to a flag’s presentation, rather than detract from its desirability, which is certainly the case here.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Kansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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