|31 STARS ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG OF THE PRE-CIVIL WAR ERA, WITH A DOUBLE-WREATH STYLE MEDALLION CONFIGURATION THAT FEATURES A LARGE, HALOED CENTER STAR; REFLECTS THE PERIOD WHEN CALIFORNIA WAS THE MOST RECENT STATE TO JOIN THE UNION, 1850-1858
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 34" x 48"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|22.25" x 36"
|31 star American national flag, block-printed on plain weave cotton, with a double-wreath style medallion star configuration. This consists of a large center star, surrounded by two consecutive wreaths of smaller stars, with a slightly larger star in each corner of the blue canton. The center star is embellished with a pinstriped silhouette, that flag collectors called a “halo.” California became the 31st state in 1850, ushered in on the heels of the 1849 Gold Rush. The 31 star flag became official the following year, on July 4th, 1851 and remained so until July 3rd, 1858, following the addition of Minnesota as the 32nd state.
Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that have survived into 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 on their yards or 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 flags were used to mark garrisons, those 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 issued their iconic, swallowtail, Stars & Stripes format guidons until the second year of the Civil War, in 1862, and even then were not formally authorized to carry the national flag until long afterward, in the 1890’s.
The only regular non-military use of the flag between 1840 and 1861 was for political campaigning. The most likely display of this particular flag was at a political rally, either in 1852, when Whig candidate for the White House, Franklin Pierce, successfully ran against Democrat General Winfield Scott, and the nation was simultaneously celebrating its 75th birthday, or else in 1856, when James Buchannan of Pennsylvania overtook both former President Millard Fillmore, nominee of the Know-Nothings, and Republican Party candidate John Fremont of California.
Although the name of the maker that produced flags these flags with haloed center stars is not known, they appear to have made them in five other star counts, including 30, 34, 35, 36 and 42. Because printed parade flags did not exist before the 26-star era (1837-1845), and because few private individuals flew the Stars & Stripes before the Civil War (1861-1865), they would have been among the first to produce printed flags.
Four extremely rare varieties, probably originating from two different flag-makers, also exist with haloed stars in the 13 star count. One variety was used for flags made for both the 1856 for the presidential campaign of James Buchanan (two known examples of this flag survive), as well as in 1860 for the campaign of Abraham Lincoln (one known example). Another was also produced in 1860 for the presidential campaign of independent candidate John Bell (one known example). The last, printed on a wool and cotton blended fabric, was made for the 1876 centennial of American independence and all of its 13 stars have halos (approx. 5 known examples).
The strength of the flag’s graphic presentation places it among the best of 19th century designs. On the example in question here, note the deep shade of blue and how beautifully it contrasts with the sunburst red-orange of the stripes. There were no official qualifications for the shades of red and blue on the American flag until 1912, so a wide spectrum of hues appear in early examples. Many printed flags of this era have stripes that lead strongly toward the shade present here.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.
The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: There is minor to modest soiling throughout, more significant at the fly end. There are tack holes along the hoist end, accompanied by small rust stains, where the flag was affixed to a wooden staff. There is some misprinting. There is minor to modest fading in the stripes. There is minor fabric loss at the fly end, and there are a limited number of minor holes scattered elsewhere. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The early date and the scarcity of this example would warrant practically any condition. and early example rare example that warrants practically any condition.
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|Earliest Date of Origin:
|Latest Date of Origin:
|1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
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