Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 47" x 71.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 35.5" x 59"
13 star American national flag of the late 19th century, in a small scale for the period, with interesting coloration. The stars are arranged in rows of 3-2-3-2-3, a pattern that appeared toward the end of the Civil War, in or around 1864, in some flags employed by the U.S. Navy. This became the most often seen pattern in 13 star flags of all kinds post-war. In most cases the design can also be viewed as a diamond of stars with a star in each corner, or as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some feel could have been the design of the very first American flag and may identify a link between this star configuration and the British Union Jack. The pattern is often attributed--albeit erroneously in my opinion--to New Jersey Senator Francis Hopkinson, a member of the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, who is credited with having played the most significant role in the original design of the American national flag. Hopkinson's original drawings for the design of the flag have not survived, and his other depictions of 13 star arrangements for other devices are inconsistent.

The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a linear, treadle stitch. The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced and joined with treadle stitching. There is a wide, twill cotton binding along the hoist, with two brass grommets.

Note how the coloration of the canton has faded to a dusty blue coloration. This is both an attractive feature and indicative of the flag’s date of manufacture. When this trait is present, it is most often encountered in flags that date between 1890 and 1895. The color is a result of what is known as a "fugitive" dye, which broke down chemically, of its own accord, whether or not it was exposed to light for prolonged periods of time. After 1895, either flag manufacturers caught on to the fugitive dye and ordered different wool, or the textile company that was producing it changed the dying process. In any event, flags that were made with this particular fabric and have survived to the present day, have an interesting presentation that many collectors find pleasing to the eye.

The manner in which the stars are sewn is consistent, date-wise, with the color of blue wool bunting. Lineal, machine-sewn stars are occasionally encountered in flags made during the Civil War (1861-1865), appearing more often as time passed, but are not frequently encountered until the opening of the 1890’s.

The small scale of the flag itself is a desirable trait. Prior to the last decade of the 19th century, most flags made for extended outdoor use were very large. Those with pieced-and-sewn construction were generally eight feet long and larger. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals. Today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism. Smaller flags exist in the early periods, but they are the exception. A six-foot example is small among flags of those that pre-date 1890. Beginning around 1890, flag-makers started producing 3 and 4-foot examples for the first time in quantity. These almost universally displayed 13 stars, emulating Navy use of 13 star flags on small craft. At just under five feet on the fly, this is a larger example than most 13 star flags of the 1890’s, and might seem large today, but is nonetheless very small among its counterparts of the time with sewn construction.

Why 13 Stars?
13 star flags have been continuously produced throughout our nation’s history for purposes both patriotic and utilitarian. This was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the original 13 colonies, so it was appropriate for any flag made in conjunction with celebrations of American independence. 13 star flags were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the nation’s centennial in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians while campaigning for the same reason.

13 star flags were flown by American ships both private and federal. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on the ensigns made for small boats, because they wished the stars to be easily discerned at a distance. As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag so that they may be viewed from afar as individual objects. Because any star count that has previously been official remains so today according to the Congressional flag acts, all 13 star flags in an otherwise appropriate design remain official flags of the United States.

Due to a combination of the small scale of the flag and its attractive color, this is a wonderful example among 13 star flags of the late 19th century.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed in our own textile 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. Feel free to contact us for more details.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The black-painted and hand-gilded molding, with a wide, sculpted profile, is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: There is minor to modest fading in the red stripes, and significant fading of the blue canton (as described above). There is some staining along the hoist, accompanied by both moderate, golden brown oxidation and minor to modest staining in the stars. There is minor staining in the white stripes. There is very minor mothing in the stripes. 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: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1895
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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