|30 STARS ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG, PROBABLY MADE AT THE TIME OF OUR NATION’S 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE, TO COMMEMORATE WISCONSIN STATEHOOD IN 1848, LIKELY FOR USE AT THE CENTENNIAL INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 48" x 67"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|36.25" x 55"
|Wisconsin joined the Union as the 30th state on May 29th, 1848. Because it was followed less than two-and-a-half years later by California (September 9th, 1850), the 30 star flag had a very short lifespan. Flag production was very low at this point in American history, when use of the Stars & Stripes was primarily limited to ships, government and military landmarks. The first war in which the national flag was authorized to be carried by ground forces was the Mexican War (1846-48). This ended in February, before Wisconsin's admission, and very little military production occurred without urgent need. Even within the Mexican War time frame, which included flags in both the 28 and 29 star counts, exceptionally few examples are known to survive. Flags in these two star counts, with pieced and sewn construction (as opposed to printed), are among the rarest in American history. This changed just slightly in the period between 1848 and 1860, but it was not until the onset of the Civil War, in 1861, that flag production took a dramatic upward turn.
While surviving examples of American national flags with 30 stars are rare, that were actually made within the 1848-50 era, others produced outside this period, with that star count, are sometimes encountered. The most probable reason to create such a flag, would be with an intent to commemorate Wisconsin statehood.
One specific use for a flag of this sort, was at World's Fairs, where historical displays objectified state-associated patriotism, and illustrated Westward Expansion. Likely made between 1876 and the 1880’s, there were but a small number of events that would have demanded this sort of flag. One of these was massive in scale. In 1876, our nation's first successful World's Fair took place in the City of Philadelphia. Held over a 6-month period, to celebrate 100 years of American independence, more than 200 structures were erected in Fairmount Park to accommodate exhibitions. The largest of these boasted biggest footprint in the world, enclosing more than 20 acres. Many bore cathedraled expanses that were ideal for the display of flags and were festooned with all manner of patriotic decoration.
25 states, including Wisconsin, had exhibits housed within their own, independent structures. The square, neoclassical house built for Wisconsin featured a wrap-around porch and a gabled turret, on the top of which was a flag pole. A flag of relatively similar size to the one in question here, is shown flying on the pole in period illustrations. While this exact flag may not have been flown on the Wisconsin building, of course, there were many more places within the 450 acres set aside in Fairmont park, where such a flag might have been displayed.
The flag was commercially produced by a professional flag-maker. The canton and stripes of the flag were made or wool bunting and joined with treadle stitching. Wool bunting was the most common material employed in flags constructed for long-term, outdoor use. The stars of the flag are hand-sewn and double-appliqued (applied to both sides). There is a twill cotton binding along the house, applied with treadle stitching, at the top and bottom of which were brass grommets (one of which is now absent). This is exactly the sort of flag that one might expect to find in such a setting.
In 1893, Wisconsin erected another house, grander in scale, at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Even larger than the Philadelphia expo, the premise of the Chicago World's Fair was the 400th anniversary of the 1892 landing of Christopher Columbus. A dedication occurred in October of that year, but the opening was delayed until 1893 due to the extensive demands of its construction. The exposition covered more than 600 acres and featured just under 200 buildings, at the center of which was a huge, manmade lake that was included to represent Columbus's crossing of the Atlantic. 46 nations participated and more than 27 million people attended. The scale and grandeur of the World Columbia Expo far exceeded the other world's fairs and became a icon of the emerging notion of American exceptionalism. By this time photography had advanced many more photos exist from the event than from its 1876 counterpart. A period photo seems to document a flag being flown on the structure. The flag is prominently in the image, though it almost appears as if it was somehow added by a photographer or artist. If it is, in fact, an actual flag, I would estimate the size at upwards of 2 - 3 times that of the 30 star example that is the subject of this narrative, and while the entire canton isn't visible, the flag on the Wisconsin House almost certainly contains more stars. Furthermore, while flags with hand-sewn stars and treadle-sewn stripes were still being actively produced in the first half of the 1890’s, this particular example shares less obvious traits more consistently with the many 38 star (1876-1889) examples that I have observed and owned over more than 23 years of extensive study and heavy buying, than with 44 star (1890-1896) examples. My opinion is that it was made for the 1876 centennial.
While the size of the flag might appear large by modern terms, this is an extremely small example among its pieced-and-sewn counterparts of the 19th century, when most flags were 8 feet long and larger. This adds a level of desirability for both collectors and one-time buyers alike, who wish to be able to more easily mount and frame flags for display in an indoor setting.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own textile conservation department, led by expert trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.
The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. Protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: The upper grommet is missing, once present on the hoist binding. Three of the stars, on the obverse, have significant soiling. Two of these exhibit small areas of fabric loss. There is minor soiling elsewhere in the stars and along the binding. There minor to modest holes and minor threadbare areas in the striped field. We placed period fabric of similar coloration behind some of these, during the mounting process. There is a minor to modest darning repair along the top of the 1st red stripe, about 1/3 of the way from the canton, and a modest - moderate instance of the same in the last red stripe, adjacent to the binding. There are minor darning repairs in all of the white stripes. There is some bleeding of the red dye into the white stripes, including a modest to moderate area in the 3rd of these, plus modest instances in both the 3rd and 4th, and minor occurrences elsewhere. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
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|1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
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