Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: 30j-818
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 26" x 33"
Flag Size (H x L): 15.25" x 22.25"
30 star American national parade flag, block-printed on coarse cotton, with a beautiful form of the medallion configuration. This features a large star in each corner of the blue canton, surrounding two consecutive wreaths of smaller stars. In the center of these is a very large star with a pinstriped halo around its perimeter. Note the irregular profiles of the corner stars, in particular, which are mis-proportioned and whimsical. All of these tip slightly so that the topmost point is directed slightly toward the center of the canton. Also note how the unusual, persimmon red stripes contrast with the crudely printed, indigo blue canton.

Wisconsin joined the Union as the 30th state on May 29th, 1848, and the 30th star was officially added on July 4th of that year. Although this remained the official count until July 3rd, 1851, flags in this star count would not have produced following the addition of California on September 9th, 1850. Flag-makers, both commercial and otherwise, paid little heed to official star counts, instead selecting what was practical. Sometimes a star might even be added before a new state came in, in hopeful anticipation. This meant that the 30 star flag had a realistic window of production of just over two years.

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 use of this flag was at a political rally, probably in 1848 when Whigs Zachary Taylor & Millard Fillmore defeated Democrats Lewis Cass & William Orlando Butler, as well as former president Martin Van Buren with Charles Francis Adams, Sr., running on the independent, Free Soil ticket, to win the White House.

Although the maker that produced the flag is unknown, examples with this unusual center star exist in at least six other star counts including 31, 34, 35, 36, and 42. Three examples also exist, probably from different makers, that bear 13 stars. One dates to 1856 and was made for the presidential campaign of James Buchanan. Another was made for the 1860 presidential campaign of John Bell, who ran against Abraham Lincoln, as an independent, on the Constitutional Union Party ticket. Another style, printed on a wool and cotton blended fabric, dates to the 1876 centennial and all of its 13 stars have halos.

The first printed parade flags appeared between 1837 and 1845. The earliest display either 26 stars, to reflect the addition Michigan as the 26th state, or 13 stars, paying homage to the original 13 colonies and the birth of our nation. Made just shortly thereafter, this 30 star example falls among the earliest of all known printed flags.

Very few parade flags in this star count have been discovered. I am aware of only three varieties. In the case of the flag that is the subject of this narrative, with the haloed center star, fewer than twenty-five examples are known. For each of the other two styles, just one, single example is known. I bought and sold one of these, documented on page 15 of "The Stars & The Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit" by J. Richard Pierce (2005).

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and presentation of flags and have preserved thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount was placed in a deep, cove-shaped molding with a very dark brown surface, nearly black, and a rope-style inner lip, to which a flat profile molding, with a finish like old gun metal, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: The flag exhibits obvious signs of use. There is a long split in the fabric in the 4th white stripe, running horizontally, with some associated loss, accompanied by other small fractures and holes of a less significant stature, located in both this stripe, and the 1st, 5th, and 6th white stripes. There is a scattering of small holes at and hear the end of the 5th and 6th white stripes. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind each of these areas during the mounting process. There is modest to moderate soiling beneath the canton, where the original wooden staff would have transferred some acidity, plus minor of the same at the fly end, and minor soiling in the 3rd white stripe, next to the canton. There is modest dye loss and fading in the red stripes, which have some inconsistency in printing. There is irregular printing in the canton, with moderate pigment loss throughout, and a minor amount of bleeding onto the white in the stars. A very minor amount of professional color restoration was pursued to improve this. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The rarity of this example, accompanied by its early date, well-warrants the condition.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type:
Star Count: 30
Earliest Date of Origin: 1848
Latest Date of Origin: 1850
State/Affiliation: Wisconsin
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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