|31 STARS ARRANGED IN A RARE VARIATION OF THE “GREAT STAR” PATTERN, WITH THE WORD "FLORIDA" PAINTED IN THE STRIPES, PART OF A GROUP OF REPRESENTING VARIOUS STATES, REPORTED TO HAVE BEEN USED AT THE WIGWAM CONVENTION (THE 1860 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION) IN CHICAGO; THIS EXACT FLAG ILLUSTRATED IN “COLLECTING LINCOLN” BY SCHNEIDER
|Frame Size (H x L):
|23" x 27.25"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|11.25" x 14.5"
|31 star American national parade flag, printed on glazed cotton, with the word "Florida" painted across the striped field in bold, black letters. An extraordinary example, this particular flag serves as the documented link that ties both it, and a group of like flags, to use at the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago. Held at the Wigwam, this was commonly referred to as the “Wigwam Convention.” It was here that Abraham Lincoln was famously selected to run for the White House, on the party’s anti-slavery platform.
This flag is part of a series of known examples that reflect a scattering of states in like fashion, that would have represented where delegates from each corresponding location were seated. Others known lettered in the same manner include Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, California, Georgia, Virginia, Arkansas, New York, Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Minnesota.
Formerly in the collection of the late Howard Hazelcorn, the Florida example is illustrated on page 46 of a book by Stuart Schneider entitled "Collecting Lincoln" (1997, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., Atglen, PA), where it is noted as having been “found with a group, from several states” and is accompanied by the Wigwam attribution.
Because there was no official star design for the American national flag until 1912, the pattern was left to the liberties of the maker. The stars of the Wigwam-attributed flags are arranged in a whimsical variation of what is known as the "Great Star" pattern, a large star made out of smaller ones. This serves as one of the most coveted geometric designs in flag collecting.
Note how the center of this particular variant is comprised of a pentagon of stars, surrounding a single, center star. This is encircled by a wreath of 10 stars, arranged in 5 groups of 2, from which the points of the Great Star formation extend. Unlike some Great Star patterns, note how this style is characterized by a perimeter of semi-circular, concave valleys that terminate in especially pointy arms. Also note how there is an additional star between each arm, outside the basic pattern.
Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 against three other significant candidates, including Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas, also of Lincoln’s home state of Illinois, Southern Democrat John Breckinridge of Kentucky, and independent John Bell, of Tennessee, who ran on the Constitutional Union Party ticket.
Although there were 33 states in 1860, and the flag officially bore 33 stars until June 3rd, 1861, flags used by politicians during the 19th century often had a star count that lagged behind that whatever was official at the time. One explanation for this might be that the star count wasn’t important to the person ordering these small, printed flags. Perhaps a discount was give for slightly outdated stock, or because rallies may have been held on short notice, outdated star counts were the only thing that typically may have been on a flag-maker's shelves, with most orders produced on demand with greater lead time. While the purchaser may have sometimes been a campaign manager, at others it was probably the result of local supporters who wished to make a favorable impression on the politician and the participating attendees. In either case, a festive star pattern may have typically been preferred to make a statement, regardless of the star count, which couldn't be easily counted at a mere glance anyway with the sort of star pattern presented here. Whatever the case may be, several Lincoln campaign flags are known with 31 stars arranged exactly as they are on the examples attributed to the Wigwam Convention delegates. With the exception that they have "Lincoln & Hamlin" printed on them in some fashion, instead of the name of a state, they are one-in-the-same (in various sizes). "Douglas & Johnson" flags from the 1860 campaign also survive with 31 stars, configured in the same manner. The fact that numerous flags in the 31 star count, in this exact style, were in use in 1860, lends substantial weight to the reported history of their use at the Wigwam.
It is important to note that a flag in the same style also exists with Frémont & Dayton campaign advertising, produced to support the 1856 Republican ticket. While it is feasible that the flags were produced for the 1856 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, the first for the newly-formed party, this style of flag is not common among known political campaign flags in that year, all of which are rare and most of which exist as the only known example in any given style. And while the count of 31 stars does not exclude the 1852 Whig convention in Baltimore, campaign flags from that year are practically unknown. Just one flag and a tiny handful of kerchiefs have been identified, all of them representing Whig candidate Winfield Scott.
While the 31 star count does not exclude Democrat Party conventions in 1852 (Baltimore) or 1856 (Cincinnati), or the American Convention (Know Nothing Party) in 1856 (Philadelphia), Democrats appear to have made little use of flags, perhaps because they were slower to adapt to the pursuit of campaign advertising in general. Campaigning for public office was actually considered to be unbecoming of a gentleman until 1840, when Whig candidate William Henry Harrison became the first to actively pursue the venture. The first campaign flags were produced for the Harrison ticket. Democrats were slow to respond. None exist for his opponent, Martin Van Buren. And while most political objects were produced for a profit by independent businessmen rather than by political parties or their representatives, the lack of campaign textiles for Democrat candidates early on seems to bear a rather obvious relationship to the significantly lower number of Democrat Campaigning for public office was considered unbecoming of a gentleman until 1840, when Whig candidate William Henry Harrison became the first to actively pursue the venture. The first flags, kerchiefs, banners and broadsides were made for the Harrison campaign. Democrats were slow to respond. None exist for his opponent, Martin Van Buren. And while most political objects were produced for a profit by independent businessmen rather than by political parties or their representatives, the lack of campaign textiles for Democrat candidates early on seems to bear a relationship to a lesser number of campaign rallies.
Campaigning for public office was considered unbecoming of a gentleman until 1840, when Whig candidate William Henry Harrison became the first to actively pursue the venture. The first flags, kerchiefs, banners and broadsides were made for the Harrison campaign. Democrats were slow to respond. None exist for his opponent, Martin Van Buren. And while most political objects were produced for a profit by independent businessmen rather than by political parties or their representatives, the lack of campaign textiles for Democrat candidates early on seems to bear a relationship to a lesser number of Democrat campaign rallies.
California became the 31st state in 1850, ushered in on the heels of the 1849 Gold Rush. The 31 star flag became official on July 4th, 1851, and remained so until July 3rd, 1858. Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century.
It is of interest to note that at least one other parade flag exists that has 30 stars, arranged in a different version of the Great Star pattern, across which the word "Verginia" (misspelled) is formally printed, as opposed to hand-painted. Using similar-sized characters, that flag was presumably by E.C. Williams of Rochester, NY, whose name is also professionally printed on the textile. If the flag made by Williams was part of a similar series, used to designate seating areas for 1848 or perhaps 1852 convention delegates, then it would be logical to presume that the concept for the series of 31 star flags was carried forward from an earlier series of similar flags.
In summary, this 31 star flag has a collection of features that makes it a particularly special object. Here is a pre-Civil War star count, on a flag made to represent Florida--a state with a significant population and significant wealth, to which almost no surviving Stars & Stripes flags of the 19th century can be tied. Almost no 27 star flags exist, for example, made following the addition of Florida as the 27th state. Entering the Union on March 3rd, 1845, the 27th star was to be officially added on July 4th of that year. And though 27 remained the official count until July 3rd, 1846, the addition of Texas on December 29th, 1845, just 9 months after Florida, meant that there was very little incentive to produce 27 star flags. No one cared what was official, and as with most things related to flag production during the 19th century, being practical far outweighed official measures of any sort. The nation was at war with Mexico at this time, and knowledge of when a star was officially added, per the Third Flag Act (1818), was probably anything but commonplace.
There was very little private use of the American prior to the Civil War (1861-1865), for general, patriotic purpose. Most flag use was on ships both public and private, as well as for government or military affairs. What little use there was of parade flags pre-war seems to have been largely limited to political campaigning, and even within that function, surviving examples are extremely scarce. Because most pre-Civil War parade flags that exist have the names of presidential candidates printed directly on them, it is logical to suggest that even those that do not, probably shared the same function, having been produced for political campaigns in some capacity.
Brief History of the Great Star Design:
The Great Star pattern is thought to have come about shortly after the War of 1812, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 naval hero, create a new design that would become the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Reid became harbor master of New York following the war. During his lifetime, he created many innovations in signal use, including a system that could actually send messages from New York to New Orleans by sea in just two hours.
Use as a Naval signal had been the primary reason for the initial creation of an American national flag in 1777, but since there was no official star configuration, the appearance of our flag varied greatly. Reid's primary concern centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. His hope was that as more and more states joined the Union, and more stars were subsequently added to the flag, that the design would remain easily identified on the open seas. In 1818 Reid suggested to Congress that the number of stripes permanently return to 13 (reduced from 15) and that the stars be grouped into the shape of one large star.
Reid’s proposal would have kept the star constellation in roughly the same format, in a pattern that could be quickly identified through a spyglass as the number of states grew. His concept for the stripes was ultimately accepted, but his advice on the star pattern was rejected by President James Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in what would become known as the “Great Star”, “Great Flower”, or “Great Luminary” pattern. Monroe probably didn’t wish to impose this cost on either the government or civilians, so he suggested a simple pattern of justified rows. The Great Star was nevertheless produced by anyone willing to make it and its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags with variants of this beautiful design.
In summary, this is a pre-Civil War flag, with what can be referred to as the Rolls Royce of 19th century star configurations, beautiful graphics, and the name of a rather wealthy and populous state boldly emblazoned across it. Examples of the Stars & Stripes that reflecting this state in any way are exceptionally rare, especially this early on in American history and so close to Florida statehood--so much so that practically nothing survives. But perhaps the best part, beyond all of these persuasive features, is a supposition that the flag was used in the campaign of an American president second in popularity to only George Washington himself, perhaps in an arguable tie with Thomas Jefferson. On top of this, the flag is documented in a leading historical reference on Abraham Lincoln memorabilia and presently serves as a veritable cornerstone of its identified group.
Mounting: Don’t be fooled by the seemingly backwards orientation. In the 19th century, the same flag ethics that exist today did not apply. In fact, display of the American national flag with the canton in the upper left did not enter the American consciousness, as the one correct manner of presentation, until the end of the 19th century, and was not formally dictated as such until the flag code was adopted in 1923. Prior to this time, it was just as common to see the flag displayed with the canton on the right. 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 presentation of flags and have preserved thousands of examples. The exceptional, gilded, American molding dates to the period between 1800 and the 1830’s, with a beautiful profile and great, early surface. 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 mild oxidation in the white fabric and there is very minor soiling, primarily located in the last white stripe. There is some pigment loss in the red stripes and there is some misprinting, primarily in the canton, where pigment loss I likely to be primarily the result of the same. There is some pigment loss in the lettering. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The overall presentation is beautiful and the extreme rarity, as the only known example, would warrant practically any condition issues.
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