Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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38 STARS IN A CIRCLE-IN-A-SQUARE MEDALLION, WITH A HUGE CENTER STAR, ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH INCREDIBLE GRAPHICS AND COLORS; MADE FOR THE CENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE IN 1876, TO REFLECT THE ADDITION OF COLORADO TO THE UNION AS THE 38TH STATE; ONE OF JUST A TINY HANDFUL OF VERY RARE FLAGS KNOWN TO EXIST IN THIS EXACT STYLE

38 STARS IN A CIRCLE-IN-A-SQUARE MEDALLION, WITH A HUGE CENTER STAR, ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH INCREDIBLE GRAPHICS AND COLORS; MADE FOR THE CENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE IN 1876, TO REFLECT THE ADDITION OF COLORADO TO THE UNION AS THE 38TH STATE; ONE OF JUST A TINY HANDFUL OF VERY RARE FLAGS KNOWN TO EXIST IN THIS EXACT STYLE

Web ID: 38j-1156
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): Approximately 36" x 28"
Flag Size (H x L): 23.75" x 16"
 
Description:
38 star American national parade flag with an especially rare type of medallion star pattern. This consists of a huge center star, surrounded by a wreath of stars, contained within a square of stars that follow the perimeter of the square canton.

Significantly more rare than the equally beautiful “Great Star” pattern (a star made out of stars), the circle-in-a-square pattern is one of the best geometric designs across all star counts. Flags in this basic pattern are so scarce that even major collectors like Boleslaw Mastai, who wrote the first major text on flag collecting and owned more than 500 examples, never acquired one.

Circle-in-a-square patterns are known in only a tiny handful of star counts. Among pieced-and-sewn flags, the design is next-to-unknown. I can recall just two, both of which I bought and sold nearly 20 years ago, including one flag in the 21 star count and another with 34 stars. Among printed and clamp-dyed flags the pattern was most popular in the 38 star count, with the only two known designs both dating to 1876, made specifically for the centennial of American independence. Of the two 38 star variants, this one, printed on cotton, is the most rare, with approximately 6 - 7 copies extant. Many years ago I was privileged to acquire the first to surface and, for many years, the only one known. I sold it to collector Richard Pierce 20+ years ago, and it is illustrated on page 28 of his book, "The Stars & The Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit" (published by Richard Pierce, 2005). The flag was so well liked by Pierce and others, myself included, that it was selected as the frontispiece for posters and ads for his earliest book signings. I was fortunate to reacquire the flag from Richard years later, and sold it again, now in a different private collection.

Because the red dye is not colorfast in this variant, almost none survive in this state of condition. That said, note the saturated shade of scarlet, and how well it contrasts with the vibrant cobalt blue.

Parade flags such as this were printed on a bolt, in repeating fashion, and sold by the yard. It is of interest to note that a child's dress known, made entirely of this fabric, clipped into fragments (none of them complete flags), pieced and sewn together, to create a patriotic garment for the 1876 celebrations. I am in possession of an image of the granddaughter of a flag collector, actually wearing the dress, taken at a time before he knew how valuable it was. When I received the photo, requesting my opinion about its value, I practically fell off my chair. "Well," I replied, "if the flags were complete…”

Colorado became the 38th state on August 1st, 1876. 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 remained the official star count for the American flag throughout that year.

Because flag-making was a competitive venture, few flag-makers would have continued 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 often seen at the Centennial Expo. Some flag-makers would have been adding a star for the 38th state before it even entered the Union, in the early part of 1876 or even prior. In fact, many makers of parade flags were actually producing 39 star flags, in hopeful anticipation of the addition of two more Western Territories instead of one. But the 39th state would not join the Union for another 13 years, when the Dakota Territory entered as two states on the same day. The 38 star flag became official on July 4th, 1877 and was generally used until the addition of the Dakotas in 1889.

A penciled inscription near the hoist end of the last white stripe reads “5 ¾,” followed by what appears to be “d/T” or perhaps “d/F,” probably the latter. My guess is that this was the first flag on the bolt, when the buyer purchased it from a retailer, along with at least two others that were found with it. The notation may have been the price, at $5.75 per dozen flags. This would have been a likely amount at the time that the flag was produced. Alternatively, this may have been intended to read as 5 3/4 yards per dozen flags. At 16” per flag, the actual measurement would have been 5 1/3 yards, which is rather close. If the seller threw in a 13th, to make it a baker’s dozen, this would have been within 1 inch of the actual measurement. I have to think that this was then case, so that the buyer would receive an extra flag and be pleasantly surprised with the purchase. Or, if the bolt was improperly trimmed, at 5 ¾ yards, the he/she would still receive a minimum of 12 complete flags. Having seen many bolts of parade flags trimmed so that one was clipped right through the middle, horizontally, this also seems a distinct possibility. Perhaps the intent was for the retailer not to worry about having to make a perfect cut to dispense 12 flags. Whether a price or a measurement, the mark is of significant academic interest.

Whatever the case may be, this is one of the rarest flags, made for one of the most important patriotic events in American history, in one of the most bold designs known to exist in flag collecting, a huge center star and beautifully balanced graphics and incredibly striking colors.

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.

Made in the same period as the flag, the antique, solid walnut molding has beautiful, cherry red color, retains its original varnished surface, and its original gilded liner. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is very minor staining in the white cotton, accompanied by small, modest stains along the hoist, in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and last white stripes. The most significant of these occurs in the 2nd white stripe. There is a thin fragment of the last red stripe absent for a length of about 3 inches, due to the way it was trimmed. Such flags were either trimmed at the dry goods store at which they were likely sold, or by the owner, who might purchase a length of the fabric, then trim as needed afterwards. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. This is almost tied with the best surviving example known in this style, the rarity and desirability of which warrants almost any condition.
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Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Colorado
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com


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