Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: 38j-1153
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 46" x 35.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 34" x 23.5"
38 star American national parade flag, printed on coarse, glazed cotton. Large in scale among its counterparts, the stars of the flag are arranged in one of the most interesting configurations that exists in 19th century examples. This consists of a wreath of stars, inside which a “Great Star” pattern (a large star made out of smaller stars) is embedded. The result is what I have termed a Great-Star-in-a-Wreath.

For those new to early flags, the design can perhaps be a bit difficult to distinguish at first glance. Note that the stars at the tip of each arm of the five-pointed Great Star reach into and from part of the large circle. When the flag is displayed vertically, with the canton in the upper left, the secondary, star-shaped formation, can be seen, tipped slightly to the left, with its upper-most point directed in the approximate position of 11:00.

In most wreath style medallions, there is a single star in the very center, as seen here. Typically there is a flanking star in each corner of the blue canton, outside the primary pattern. These are called “outliers.” In this case, note that there are only 2 outliers instead of 4. This was done intentionally, in order to leave room for the easy addition of two more stars. Flag-makers felt that more Western Territories were soon to be added to the Union and eagerly anticipated their arrival.

This particular flag was block-printed. The blue was applied by carving stars in relief into a wooden block, then dipping it into pigment, and applying it to the cloth. It was far easier to carve one or two more stars, than it was to create a completely new design.

The same company that produced this flag was also likely the maker of a similar variety that I have owned. It would be very easy to mistake both for the same design, each being about the same size, with the same size stars and the same coloration. Closer examination of the other style reveals that it instead has a more common, triple wreath, comprised of three consecutive rings around a single center star.

Colorado became the 38th state on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Per the Third Flag Act of 1818, stars were not officially added until the 4th of July following a state's addition. For this reason, 37 was the official star count for the American flag in 1876. Flag-making was a competitive venture, however, and few flag-makers would have been continuing to produce 37 star flags, when their competitors were making 38’s. It is for this reason that 38 and 13 stars (to represent the original 13 colonies) are more frequently encountered at the Centennial International Exposition, the six-month long World’s Fair, held in Philadelphia, in honor of the event.

  Some flag-makers would have been adding a star for the 38th state even before it entered the Union, in the early part of 1876 or even prior. In fact, many makers of printed parade flags were actually producing 39 star examples, in hopeful anticipation of the addition of two more Western Territories instead of one. The 39th state would not join the Union for another 13 years, however, when the Dakota Territory entered as two states (numbers 39 and 40) on the same day, on November 2nd, 1889.

This particular flag was probably produced in 1876, both because the medallion pattern is extremely rare after the centennial, and because flag-makers tended to print more intriguing designs, like this one, in celebration of the auspicious event.

Parade flags were generally intended for just one day’s use at a parade, reunion, political or patriotic rally. Note the extensive wear exhibited here, that clearly demonstrates how it was flown for an unusually extended time. While condition issues can often affect early objects negatively, in terms of collectability, the category of antique flags is a little different. While most collected objects were used indoors, flags were typically not, and there is something about appropriate wear on an early flag that communicates its age in an expected and desirable manner. If the losses affect its presentation negatively, the effect on desirability will be the same. But when the effect is endearing, and the graphic impact is compelling, the effect can instead be significantly positive. That is the case here, where the combination of oxidation, water staining, pigment loss, etc., culminates into exactly what one would expect in a 150-year old American flag, well-loved and displayed, at a time when 12 of our states had not yet joined the Union. This is magnified by the great rarity of the star design, its bold yet manageable scale, and beautiful colors.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own textile 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 placed in its correct vertical position, with the canton in the upper left. The background fabric is 100% twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded, and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: There is extensive pigment loss throughout, some water staining and soiling, and an overall golden oxidation of the white fabric. There are tack holes along the hoist end, with associated rust stains, where the flag was once tacked to its original wooden staff. Some of the rust stains repeat into the body of the flag, resulting from its having been rolled onto itself. There is some additional loss around the perimeter, and there are some striations and tears, primarily at the bottom corner of the fly end, and in the upper corner of the hoist. The flag presents beautifully, and great rarity of the Great-Star-in-a-wreath” pattern warrants practically any condition.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1889
State/Affiliation: Colorado
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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