Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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Dimensions (inches): 39.25" h x 49.25" w x 1" d
Wool hooked rug with patriotic theme and beautiful design. Note the artistic quality of the waving American flag, with its black staff and spear-head finial, canted to the right, and the billowing, red and blue, forked-tail streamer. Framed in a rectangular window with step-down corners, and bordered by a leaf and vine design, the presentation is at the same time antique and modernistic. This is accentuated by the creative, off-balance use of color around the perimeter, that seems to lean with the flag from the use of the tan, black, rust brown, and grey scraps of fabric, that must be what remained available to the maker. The design reflects the influence of the early Arts & Crafts period, which began in the 1880’s, transitioning into Art Nouveau, which it strongly influenced.

Text on the streamer reads “Don’t Tread on Me,” taken, of course, from various colonial flags, most notedly the flag that served as the Standard of the Commander In Chief Of The Continental U.S. Navy, better known as the "Gadsden Flag," the flag of the Culpepper Minutemen of Patrick Henry’s 1st Virginia Regiment of 1775, and the mythicized “First Navy Jack,” described by early Vexillologist George Henry Prebble in his “History of the American Flag (1917, Nicholas Brown / Central Press, Philadelphia), later proven to have never existed. The interesting thing about the use of this patriotic motto, is that it doesn’t seem to have been popular in the 19th century. Though flags in all three of the above designs were displayed at the six-month-long Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia (our nation’s first World’s Fair, in 1876), in at least one location, at the east end of the enormous Main Building, such flags appear to have almost never been produced, nor the motifs and slogan popularized, until the mid-20th century.

Made of wool, the rug was constructed sometime between 1880 and 1910. This exact rug was illustrated on p. 66 of “American Hooked and Sewn Rugs” by Joel and Kate Kopp (America Hurrah Antiques), (1975, E.P. Dutton & Co, New York). The Kopp’s date the rug circa 1890.

In waving images of the flag, the count of stars is often meaningless. Though it’s difficult to be sure, the count of 5 in this instance seems almost purposeful. If that is the case, a date of 1910 is a possibility. In this particular year, five states afforded women the right to vote. When examining the way the total was calculated, the situation can be a bit confusing. Some territories granted suffrage for elections prior to becoming states. In some cases, it was revoked, then reinstituted. The Wyoming Territory was the first to allow women to vote, in 1869, followed by the Utah Territory in 1870 (revoked in 1887, reenacted in 1895), the Washington Territory in 1883 (revoked in 1887, reenacted in 1910), and Colorado in 1893. While Idaho did, in fact, become the fifth state in 1896, Washington had revoked the right by this time, and did not reinstitute suffrage until 1910. Graphic depictions of American flags, altered for the Suffrage movement, seem to have no trouble in presenting the correct number of states. Some versions of a classic postcard illustrate a 13-stripe flag with 4 stars, listing Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho, clearly excluding Washington, which basically got out of line, then back in, to become the fifth in 1910. When California adopted suffrage a year later, in 1911, flags were once again made to celebrate the event, celebrating its addition as the sixth state, by adding a sixth star. Though use of the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto is not known to have been common among the verbiage of the suffrage platform, it was certainly fitting, and it was, in fact, used. A terrific image of a parade in Washington, D.C., on March 3rd, 1913, illustrates a banner being carried by the Just Government League of Maryland, in the form of the flag in the design of the Culpepper Minutemen, with their name replacing that of the unit, along the top, above a coiled rattlesnake, flanked by the words “Liberty or Death,” with “Don’t Tread on Me” arched beneath. Clearly the words of colonial America in the Revolutionary War, were not lost on Maryland suffragettes. In addition, a calendar produced to advertise the Beneficial Insurance Company in 1903, shows a woman in a purple gown, on a green background—England’s suffrage movement colors—carrying a golden yellow Gadsden flag—the primary color of the movement in America. Typically illustrating Lady Columbia, the figure was changed to a Gibson girl-like image. Though suffrage is not specifically mentioned in the ad, the message of the firm is quite clear.

Whatever the case may be, with regard to the used of 5 stars, the composition and colors are the rug are wonderful, as-is the patriotic theme. The textile is a fantastic representation of American folk art in this medium.

Provenance: Collection of Peter and Barbara Goodman, acquired in January of 1953. Mounting: The rug was professionally mounted on black cotton twill. A custom, wooden framework was created for further support, and the background fabric was wrapped around it, so that approx. 1” of depth is visible around the outer edge.

Condition: A scattering of minor repairs constitute less than 1% of the composition.
Primary Color: tan, red, white, blue
Earliest Date: 1880
Latest Date: 1910
For Sale Status: Available
Price $13,500
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