|38 CANTED STARS IN STAGGERED ROWS, ON A CLAMP-DYED, WOOL, ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG MADE BY THE HORSTMANN BROTHERS IN PHILADELPHIA, ALMOST CERTAINLY FOR DISPLAY AT THE 1876 CENTENNIAL EXPOSITION; A VERY RARE EXAMPLE WITH STRONG COLORS AND GREAT TEXTURE; REFLECTS COLORADO STATEHOOD
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 36.5" x 47.5"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|Approx. 25.5" x 36.5"
|38 star American flag, press-dyed on wool bunting, with wonderful texture and great colors. Made by Horstmann Brothers of Philadelphia, a major military outfitter, the flag is signed along the hoist with a black stencil.
The stars of the flag are arranged in lineal rows of 8-7-8-7-8. Note how these are universally canted, with one point directed at roughly 11:00, when the flag is viewed on the obverse (front).
This particular style of flag, from Horstmann, is exceedingly rare. Measuring approximately two by three feet, I know of just four examples in total, including this flag, all of which I have had the great privilege to own. The first two I acquired about 20 years ago. I was not yet taking digital imagery at the time, and cannot seem to locate them among my files of hard copy prints and negatives. I believe they displayed in the same configuration of staggered rows. The example that I owned more recently bore the staggered row layout, but had exceedingly crude printing, whimsical and interesting in its own right. All, I believe, have displayed their stars slightly canted at an angle, like the flag that is the subject of this narrative.
A close variation that I acquired about 11 or 12 years ago also had canted stars. It was in the same scale and shared the same 8-7-8-7-8 distribution, but the rows were not staggered. Instead these were justified toward the fly end. Because the spacing was inconsistent, the resulting formation was not what one might expect, with perfect spaces for two additional stars along the hoist end (a “notched” pattern).
Horstman flags made of press-dyed wool sometimes had formal bindings, sometimes had a length of fabric tape stitched along the hoist, and sometimes had no binding at all. This one has a traditional binding, made of heavy cotton twill, in the form of an open sleeve, treadle-sewn along the hoist. Near the top of this, “2 x 3 Ft.” appears in a black inked stencil, near the top, accompanied by “Horstmann. Phila.” Near the bottom.
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 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 even before it 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.
Press-dyed wool flags are scarcer than those printed on cotton and silk. Because parade flags were often intended for one day's use at a parade, political rally, a reunion of soldiers, or some other patriotic event, most were made of cotton. While cotton absorbs water, short-term use precluded the need for anything more hardy. Because the Centennial Exposition lasted for a period of six months, it required decorative flags that would sustain being flown for a longer time and withstand the elements. It is reasonable to assume that press-dyed wool flags were adapted for precisely this purpose, because wool sheds water is suitable for extended outdoor use. Previous to this time they primarily saw military function.
A Brief History of the Horstmann Company:
William H. Horstmann (1785-1850) was the founder of what would become a major military outfitter in both Philadelphia and New York City. A solider and fourth generation passementier (textile weaver), he emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1816 and settled in the Germantown area of Philadelphia, where there was a significant concentration of textile manufacture. There he married the daughter of the most successful lace manufacturing firm, and started his own business in coach lace and military goods at the corner of 59 North 3rd Street. He imported looms from Germany and elsewhere and maintained a regular trade with his family in Europe. The company grew exponentially in size and had many addresses over its years of operation. In 1828, the William H. Horstmann Military Store opened. In 1843 it became William H. Horstmann & Sons Military Store, and in 1859 it was taken over by sons, Sigmund H. and William J., and began to operate as Horstmann Bros. & Co. The company manufactured its own goods, including flags, swords, drums, insignia, and many other items, and it subcontracted their manufacture as well, depending on financial sensibility. There were investors along the way, such as William S. Hassall and George Evans, who broke off and began their own large and successful firm. The New York branch changed its name in 1877 to that of a Horstmann partner, H.V. Allien. Both Philadelphia and New York branches filed for bankruptcy and closed in 1948.
Because of its Philadelphia location, Horstmann was in a unique position to supply flags and banners to the 1876 Centennial International Exposition, and thus served an integral role in decorating the enormous, six-month long event. It is logical to presume that this extremely interesting and rare flag was made at this time and specifically for the event.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own 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 background is 100% hemp fabric or a hemp and cotton blend (we use both interchangeably). The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded, and distressed, Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: There is very minor soiling in the striped field and minor to modest of the same along the hoist binding. There is extremely minor mothing. There are tiny tack holes along the hoist, where metal tacks once affixed it in place on a wooden staff, that would be slipped through sleeve. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
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|Earliest Date of Origin:
|Latest Date of Origin:
|1866-1890 Indian Wars
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