Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 47" x 73.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 35" x 61.5"
13 star American national flag, made of wool bunting, and at a very high quality level among what was commercially available during the first quarter of the 20th century. Likely commissioned by special order, the stars are arranged in the circular pattern most often associated with Betsy Ross. Flags in this style are widely admired, due to the longstanding popularity of the Ross family myth. While many Americans were taught in grammar school that it was Betsy that made and designed our first flag, and that the stars appeared in this fashion, there is, unfortunately, no way to prove the claim. No colonial examples have survived with this pattern of stars. In fact, I have encountered just a couple of examples, with the Betsy Ross configuration, that I can confidently date prior to the 1890's.

The stars of the flag are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides), with a zigzag, machine stitch. The canton and stripes have been pieced and joined by machine. A wide swath of additional fabric along the hoist, extending backward from the canton and stripes, was lined with coarse cotton or hemp fabric, rolled onto itself, and hemmed with machine stitching. This was done in such a way as to form an open sleeve, through which a wooden staff could be passed through. Leather tabs, stitched firmly within the interior of the sleeve, at the top and bottom, held the flag in place, once the staff was in position.

Flags in this scale, with this manner of construction, were meant for battle, for military drilling, or to be hand-carried by marchers in parades. The latter would have been the intended function of this particular example. Inside the sleeve, the letters “DAR” were inscribed with a felt tip pen. Though the flag would have been produced sometime between roughly 1905 and 1926, the initials were likely added by a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, to indicate ownership, probably in the 1960’s at the very earliest, and possibly well-after. One can be certain that flags kept by DAR chapters were probably cared for with the highest degree of fastidiousness. That is certainly the case here, with this immaculate example, probably stored carefully away, to be brought out only on special occasions, ceremoniously, and with great reverence.

One of the interesting misconceptions about 13 star flags, is that the Betsy Ross pattern, even if not original, must have been commonly encountered in early America. Logic would suggest this, given the frequency with which it the configuration appears in modern times, but this isn’t the case. In fact, the pattern is seldom encountered anywhere until much later.

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 13 colonies, so it was appropriate for any flag made in conjunction with celebrations or notions of American independence. 13 star flags were displayed at patriotic events, such as Lafayette’s final visit in 1825-26, the nation’s centennial anniversary in 1876, and celebrations of Independence Day. They were used by presidential candidates when campaigning for office and were carried by soldiers during the Mexican and Civil Wars to draw a parallel between the current and previous struggles for freedom.

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, two circumstances occurred. One, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag, and two, it became more difficult to view them from afar as individual objects. Research conducted by the National Museum of American History, notes that the story of Betsy Ross having made the very first American flag, for General George Washington, in the company of George Ross and Robert Morris, entered into American consciousness about the time of the 1876 centennial. The tale was immensely popular among an American public eager for stories about the Revolution and its heroes. The first documentation of it appeared shortly beforehand, in 1870, in a paper written by Betsy’s grandson, William Canby, for the Pennsylvania Historical Society. At the time, Canby made no mention of how the flag was designed, save for the fact that it had 5-pointed stars, per his grandmother’s suggestion. Because no earlier documentation supports the story, most flag scholars feel it was a grand hoax, fabricated by Canby for his own interests. Nothing survives in the collective writings of the three men, for example, nor in records of their words and deeds, which are fairly extensive. As with most things, reality is perhaps somewhere in the middle ground, with some of the details based on fact and some on fiction, made up, misinterpreted, or imagined from family accounts.

The first time that a star configuration gets attached to the Ross story appears to have occurred during the last decade of the 19th century. In 1892, Charles Weisgerber painted a nine-by-twelve-foot rendition of the fabled meeting between Betsy and George Washington, in which there is a flag with a circular wreath. Shortly afterwards, in 1898, Betsy’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter began to make flags in the East Wing of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, selling them to tourists while disseminating the family folk tale. In that same year, Weisgerber and a “group of concerned citizens” sought to preserve Betsy’s former Philadelphia residence at 239 Arch Street, where she lived at the time the flag would have been sewed. Weisgerber moved his family into the house and immediately opened to the public the room in which Betsy was said to have worked her magic. Ten-cent memberships were sold to fund renovations and donors received a small calendar, to which a cotton 13 star Betsy Ross pattern parade flag was affixed. The effects of these events caused the Ross legend to stick and the story, with the corresponding flag design, has appeared ever since in more places than one could ever hope to count.

All this having been said, flags in the Betsy Ross pattern that survive from the 1890’s through the opening quarter of the 20th century, such as this one, are few and far between.

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 flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support throughout. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% hem fabric, or a hemp and cotton blended fabric (we use both interchangeably). The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed, Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: There are no significant condition issues.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1905
Latest Date of Origin: 1926
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: WW 1
Price: SOLD

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