Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 35" x 48"
Flag Size (H x L): 23" x 36"
31 star American national flag, block-printed on plain weave cotton, with a medallion configuration of stars. This consists of a large center star, surrounded by two consecutive wreaths of smaller stars, with a slightly larger flanking star in each corner of the canton. Note how the center star isn’t solid, but is silhouetted by a white line that flag collectors have termed a “halo”. California became the 31st state in 1850, ushered in on the heels of the 1849 Gold Rush. The 31 star flag became official the following year, on July 4th, 1851 and remained so until July 3rd, 1858, following the addition of Minnesota as the 32nd state.

Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. Private use of the national flag rose swiftly during the patriotism that accompanied the Civil War, then exploded in 1876 during the centennial of American independence.

Even the military did not use the flag in a manner that most people might think. The primary purpose before the Civil War was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark some garrisons, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment, with a design peculiar unto itself, and perhaps a standard that featured the numeric designation on a painted or embroidered streamer, on a solid buff yellow or blue ground. Most people are surprised to learn that ground forces were not authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until it was assigned to artillery regiments in 1834. Infantry was afforded the privilege in 1841, just prior to the Mexican War (1846-1848), while cavalry regiments were not authorized until the second year of the Civil War, in 1862.

The only regular non-military use of the flag between 1840 and 1861 was for political campaigning. The most likely display of this particular flag was at a political rally, either in 1852, when Whig candidate for the White House, Franklin Pierce, successfully ran against Democrat General Winfield Scott, and the nation was simultaneously celebrating its 75th birthday, or else in 1856, when James Buchannan of Pennsylvania overtook both former President Millard Fillmore, representing the Know-Nothings, and Republican John Fremont of California.

Although the name of the maker that produced flags these flags with haloed center stars is not known, they appear to have made them in five other star counts, including 30, 34, 35, 36 and 42. Because printed parade flags did not exist before the 26-star era (1837-1845), and because few private individuals flew the Stars & Stripes before the Civil War (1861-1865), they would have been among the first to produce printed flags.

Four extremely rare varieties, probably originating from two different flag-makers, also exist with haloed stars in the 13 star count. One variety was used for flags made for both the 1856 for the presidential campaign of James Buchanan (two known examples of this flag survive), as well as in 1860 for the campaign of Abraham Lincoln (one known example). Another was also produced in 1860 for the presidential campaign of independent candidate John Bell (one known example). The last, printed on a wool and cotton blended fabric, was made for the 1876 centennial of American independence and all of its 13 stars have halos (approx. 5 known examples).

The flag's bold graphics places it among the most beautiful found in 19th century designs. On the example in question here, note the deep shade of blue in the canton and how it contrasts with the red-orange stripes. There were no official qualifications for the shades of red and blue until 1912, so a wide spectrum of hues appear in early examples. While many printed flags of this era have stripes that lead strongly towards orange, the saturated colors present on this example are superior to most and especially attractive.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own 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.

The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is modest to moderate oxidation and soiling in the white stripes, stars, and near the top of the hoist, the most significant of which occurs towards the fly end. There is fabric breakdown along the hoist, and along the top of the canton, with some separations and associated losses. There are numerous fabric splits within the canton and several of the stars have experienced breakdown with associated loss. Blue and white cotton fabric of similar coloration, some of it period fabric, was placed behind the canton for masking purposes, during the mounting process. There are splits and small holes in the stripes field, the most significant of which is toward the fly. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The great rarity of flags in this star count well warrants its state of preservation.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 31
Earliest Date of Origin: 1850
Latest Date of Origin: 1858
State/Affiliation: California
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD

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