Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 47.25" x 33"
Flag Size (H x L): 36" x 21.5"
Entirely hand-sewn American national flag of the Civil War era, with 36 stars, in a rare and highly desirable, small size for the period (1864-67). The stars are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but also because they are more visually intriguing. Both the sewing itself and stretching of the fabrics over time results in stars that tend to have irregular shapes and interesting presentation. The two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction and the nature of the technique leads to elevated folk qualities. That is certainly the case here, where the stars on the under-hemmed side achieve an almost snowflake-like appearance. This is a perfect illustration of why flags with single-appliquéd stars often appeal to both collectors of American folk art and connoisseurs of early American textiles.

This is a professionally made flag. The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting. There is a plain weave cotton binding along the hoist, with two brass grommets, along which, on the obverse, the numeral “3” is stenciled in black pigment, to denote the length of the flag on the fly, in feet, followed by the letter “X.” Because of its keen similarities to other examples I have owned, in terms of not only materials and construction, markings, and overall appearance, this flag was almost certainly made by Annin & Company in New City. Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. The company was founded in the 1820's on the New York waterfront, incorporated in 1847, and, though it opened a large manufacturing operation in Verona, New Jersey in 1916, maintained its head office and some production in Manhattan until 1960. Annin signed at least some of their flags, beginning in the precise period when this flag was made. The earliest signed examples I have encountered have 36 stars, but Annin was very inconsistent in terms of applying its mark, as were other flag-makers of this era.

While some sources that record makers of military goods lack reference to specific military contracts with Annin, their Wikipedia entry might explain why. The narrative states: "…the U.S. Signal Corps requisitioned all its wartime flags from Annin Flagmakers for the Civil War. An undated newspaper article in Annin's 1860's archives states: "Without going through forms of contract, Annin supplied the government direct." "…As the war progressed, orders came pouring in from every state and city that was loyal to the Union, so that by the beginning of 1864, there was not a single battlefield, a brigade or a division that did not use Annin flags."

Lincoln pushed Nevada through to statehood on October 31st, 1864, during the Civil War, and just 8 days before the November election. The territory’s wealth in silver was attractive to a nation struggling with the debts of war and the president's support of statehood increased support for the Republican ticket. While the 36th star wouldn't officially be added until July 4th of the following year, flag makers cared little for official star counts. Some would have begun adding the 36th star several months before the addition of Nevada actually occurred and almost all would have added it after Nevada was in. Commercially produced flags with inscribed dates are known as early as July of 1864, four months before Nevada's addition. Adding stars before they were official was common practice during the late 19th century, reflecting both the nation's desire for Westward Expansion and the hope of flag makers to bring new star counts to market before their competitors. The 36 star flag was officially replaced by the 37 star flag in 1867, following the addition of Nebraska.

Adding to the appeal of this flag is its small size when compared to others made for extended outdoor use prior to 1890. During the 19th century, flags with pieced-and-sewn construction, (as opposed to printed,) were typically eight feet long and larger. Garrison flags measured between 35 and 45 feet on the fly. Flags were large because they were important in their function as signals, needing to be seen and recognized from great distance. Even flags made for decorative purpose, during the 19th century, were generally very large by today’s standards. A six-foot long flag was considered small and the smaller they get, the more unusual they are. At just 21.5 x 36 inches, this flag is tiny among its counterparts of the Civil War era with sewn construction, great for framing and display in an indoor setting.

The most probably purpose of the flag was for military use as a flak marker (guidon) or camp colors. While the measurements do not precisely conform to military regulations, many units were funded by private individuals and organizations, and thus equipped through non-military channels. In addition, the extreme demand, as well as the need to be both prudent and expedient during a time of great shortage, led to a lot of leniency in the use of flags.

All-in-all, an exemplary flag by all accounts and a wonderful addition to any collection.

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 black-painted and gilded molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: The flag was definitely flown and shows evidence thereof, as well as some mothing. There are minor to modest losses throughout. The most significant of these are two small holes along the top edge of the canton, plus a few running within the last quarter of the flag’s length, specifically within the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th stripes. There is a tear with associated loss, of similar magnitude, in the bottom corner of the hoist end, in the bottom stripe, where it meets the canton. There are losses along the outer edge of the binding. There is modest to moderate soiling on the white stars and binding. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 36
Earliest Date of Origin: 1864
Latest Date of Origin: 1867
State/Affiliation: Nevada
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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