Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  EXCEPTIONAL, CIVIL WAR ERA EXAMPLE OF THE FLAG OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS, THAT BECAME THE TEXAS STATE FLAG; PROBABLY CARRIED AS A MILITARY GUIDON OR CAMP COLORS; ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN; IN A TINY SCALE AMONG SEWN FLAGS OF THE PERIOD, circa 1861-1865

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 32.75" x 46.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 21.5" x 34.5"
Description....:
Surviving, 19th century examples of the Flag of the Republic of Texas, which was to eventually become its flag as a state, are so few in modern America that you can count their number, beyond this one, on one hand. I am aware of just four in institutional collections, including: (1) A flag with provenance to 1839, among the holdings of The Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos, TX; (2) A flag said to have been made at the time that Texas gained statehood, also at the Star of the Republic Museum; (3) A Civil War period flag at the Texas Memorial Museum, at the University of Texas at Austin; and (4) A Civil War period example at the Texas State Library & Archives, Austin. A 5th example, made and signed by Repsdorph Brothers, a Houston flag-maker, between approximately 1878 and 1890, was handed down through the family of Mary Jane Harris Briscoe (1819-1903), founder of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the wife of Andrew Briscoe (1810-1849), who organized the Texas Revolution and signed the declaration of independence of the Republic. I was privileged to acquire and sell this example, now in a private collection.

Numerous others have been claimed to be early or otherwise antique. While I have seen many over the years, claimed to pre-date 1900, their common denominator is forgery. Sadly, this is typical in some areas of collecting, especially in those instances where the face of great scarcity is met with steep demand. The combination of rarity, an early date, and the legendary patriotism of Texans, raises the bar for the enticement to produce fakes. A key example of this is a flag pictured in an otherwise excellent book by Robert Mayberry, Jr., produced in conjunction with his 2001 exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, entitled "Texas Flags, 1836-1943" (2001, Texas A&M Press & The MFA, Houston), p. 139. Just after the book went to press, the inauthenticity of this example was discovered. While I recognized the tell-tale signs before I read the accompanying correction, printed separately and inserted by the author and/or publisher, there are almost no experts in this field with the experience necessary to identify the error. [I tip my hat to the sincerity and effort of properly alerting readers.]

The flag that is the subject of this narrative is the earliest example that I have seen in private hands. Dating to the Civil War period (1861-1865), and entirely hand-sewn, the flag is constructed of three panels of wool bunting, in the expected layout of a vertical, blue bar, beside two horizontal bars in white over red. The perimeter of the flag is hemmed on the top, bottom, and fly ends. Made of cotton, the lone star is double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) of the blue ground. There is a coarse hemp or linen binding along the hoist, with two hand-sewn, button hole stitched grommets.

Measuring just 21.5" on the fly by 34.5" on the hoist, the flag was commercially-made and almost certainly produced for military use. While pre-1861 origin is also possibility, I suggest it to be very unlikely. My extensive experience with Civil War period, American national flags, leads me to know that a flag such as this, in a far-flung place like Texas, is unlikely to take the form of an expertly-made, war-period, Union Army or Navy flag, any time prior to the outbreak of the war. The fabrics, construction, overall appearance, and feel, all conform to the huge number of Civil War period flags I have held in my hands, examined, bought, sold, and evaluated, with counts of 34, 35, 36, and 13 stars, plus exclusionary star counts, produced in the Civil War period, for other purposes. When the combination of these familiar factors, are combined with the substantial increase in the demand for such signals, as a function of war—a very significant factor in its own right—the compass points insistently to an 1861-1865 date. At the same time, I can also confidently state that the cumulative factors are not what I would expect in a post-war example. As for origin, while production by a ship’s chandler isn’t out of the realm of possibility, in a port city such as New Orleans, I expect that the flag was much more likely produced in a Northern city, such as New York or Philadelphia, for Southern use. Northern flag-makers were known to occasionally supply both sides.

Tiny among its 19th century counterparts with pieced-and-sewn construction, the most likely function of the flag would have been for use as a military guidon (flank-marker), camp colors, or to mark the tent of a high ranking officer. In a Southern unit, given the scarcity of both funds and the difficulty of transport, the purpose could have certainly been multi-functional.

Private use of flags was extremely limited at this time. Most people are surprised to learn that American ground forces were not authorized to carry the national flag until it was assigned to federal artillery regiments in 1834. Infantry was afforded the privilege seven years later, in 1841, just prior to the Mexican War (1846-1848), but cavalry regiments were not authorized for another 22 years, in 1862, the second year of the Civil War, and officially not until many years later.

The use of state flags—when there was one—would have been even more limited. Most states didn’t even have a flag until the turn of the 20th century, when effectively forced to select one, in order to conform to the decorative demands of flag presentations at World’s Fairs, in which the respective states elected to participate.

Even when a design was formally accepted by any given state legislative body early on, as was the case in Texas, or a flag was informally accepted by way of public approval, the need or desire for public display, prior to World’s Fairs, was minuscule in the 18th and 19th centuries. Outside occasional military function, this persisted well into the 20th century.

Further, in a state like Texas, there would have been almost no purpose for such a flag post-war, where Southern flags were not permitted until after Reconstruction. Because it bore resemblance to the 1st Confederate national flag, the flag of Texas would have drawn close scrutiny in this era. Although the end of Reconstruction was agreed upon in 1876, as a compromise over the results of the disputed vote count in the presidential election of that year, implementation occurred over time. This and other reasons, such as the extreme poverty of the South post-war, and the sometimes overlooked fact that there was simply less to celebrate, caused the lack of Southern flags to persist into the 20th century. Examples begin appear in the 1880’s, with the formation of Confederate veteran’s associations, but they are scant, growing in numbers as the years passed, peaking in the 19-teens and twenties. From a vexillological perspective, the lack of Texas flags makes perfect sense. From an antiques perspective, so does the prevalence of fakes.

Brief History of the Flag of the Republic of Texas / Texas State Flag: Although its designer remains unknown, the design itself was introduced to the Congress of the Republic of Texas on December 28th, 1838. Presented by Senator William H. Wharton, it was adopted on January 25th, 1839, as the third and final version of the national flag. Though not the designer, a man by the name of Dr. Charles B. Stewart is credited with the drawing that the Third Congress of the Republic accepted, when it enacted the legislation.

Use of the "Lone Star" in Texas predates the above. Used to symbolize Texas solidarity in declaring independence from Mexico, a single, large star appeared on what is known as the "Burnet Flag," which served as the national flag of the Republic of Texas from 1836 until 1839. It also appeared on the flags designed by Stephen F. Austin in 1835 and Lorenzo de Zavala in 1836, the latter of which was allegedly adopted in the Convention of 1836, at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

It is of interest to note that flag historians also cite the use of a single, large star decades beforehand, within the Republic of West Florida, that existed for a period of just over two-and-a-half months, in 1810, and soon after became part of Eastern Louisiana. Use of a Lone Star is also seen pre-1836, in South Carolina and elsewhere. Suffice to say that the concept of using a single star to represent a new, sometimes rebellious entity was not necessarily unique.

It is also of interest to note that, during the Civil War, the State Flag of Texas was sometimes married with the First Confederate National Flag (a.k.a., Stars & Bars). The latter was very similar to the flag of Texas, instead displaying a blue canton in the upper, hoist-end corner, similar to the Stars & Stripes, on which appeared a number of white stars. This was paired with a field of 3 horizontal bars, in red-white-red. The stars represented the count of Confederate States at any particular time, the number of which grew as more states were accepted by Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Congress. Texas patriotism during the war sometimes led to the combination of the two flags, by replacing the group of stars (usually 7, 11, or 13) on a 1st National pattern flag, or some close variation thereof, with just one large one. Examples of this are just about as rare as 19th century examples of the Republic of Texas flag. I have had the privilege to own two Civil War-period examples in this format, and know of at least three others in institutional collections. I expect there were others.

Although design of the Flag of the Republic of Texas remained the de facto state flag from 1879 - 1933, there was technically no official state flag during this period. This is because, in 1879, all statutes not explicitly renewed by the state were repealed under something called the "Revised Civil Statutes of 1879." Since the flag statutes were not renewed at that time, Texas was formally flagless until the passage Texas Flag Code in 1933.

The example being offered here is an incredible survivor among known Texas flag, and would stand as a pillar in the most important of Texas-related collections.

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% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount was placed in an exceptional, gilded, step-down molding of the 1790-1810 era, to which a modern, step-down profile molding, very dark brown in color, almost black, with reddish overtones and highlights, was added as a cap. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: There is minor mothing throughout. There was moderate to significant soiling in the white and red bars, on the star, and along the hoist binding. Very mild cleaning was undertaken in the white bar and in the star, with water only. Some professional color restoration followed in the white bar, with a reversible medium. An extremely minor amount of the same was undertaken in both the star and the red bar. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The extreme rarity of early Texas flags would warrant almost any condition issues.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: Other
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
State/Affiliation: Texas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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