Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 69.5" x 104"
Flag Size (H x L): 57.25" x 91.5"
13 star American national flag, made sometime between the 1876 centennial of American independence and approximately 1895. The stars are arranged in rows of 3-2-3-2-3. In most cases this can also be viewed as a diamond of stars, with a star in each corner and a star in the very center. It is of interest to note that the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern can also be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some feel could have been the design of the very first American flag and may identify a link between this star configuration and the British Union Jack.

Since there was no official star configuration for the American national flag until 1912, the stars on 13 star flags may appear in a wide host of patterns. There are more than 80 different known arrangements for the 13 star count alone. The 3-2-3-2-3 arrangement is often attributed--albeit erroneously in my opinion--to New Jersey Senator Francis Hopkinson, a member of the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Hopkinson is generally credited with having played the most significant role in the design of the American national flag, but his original sketches have not survived. While he did create and submit artwork that depicted arrangements of 13 stars for other important American devices, such as governmental seals and currency, none displayed them in a 3-2-3-2-3 pattern. In fact, this star design is almost never encountered before the tail end of the Civil War.

The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with lineal, treadle stitching. Note how these are oriented in various directions on their vertical axis, which adds an interesting visual quality. The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced and joined in the same fashion. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist, which originally had two brass grommets, one at the top and bottom. The lower one of these was at some point torn away or removed. A patch made from the same variety of fabric was stitched over top of the region for support. At some point, a series of fine, brass rings were hand-stitched along the outer edge of the flag with brown thread, at equal intervals. Typically this was done when a flag was to be hand-carried. Although the size of this particular example, at 5 x 7.5 feet, was longer than most carried on foot, it was in no way out of the realm of reasonable possibility. Regulation, U.S. Army, infantry battle flags were 6 x 6.5 feet, and so were actually a foot taller and only a foot shorter than this example.

Along the binding, on the reverse, are four inscriptions. The name “Trask” was written near the top, with a dip pen, followed penciled initials that read “AKJ,” further down, and “8 x 5” to indicate size in feet. The penciled markings occur within the region adjacent to the canton. Near the bottom, in a different hand, also with a dip pen, is the name “A.K. Jenner.” The names and initials would represent former owners. It was common to mark flags in this fashion during the 19th and early 20th centuries to indicate ownership. In spite of some digging, none of the available information yielded any possible identities or clues to indicate specific history of use. This is often the case with common names, such as “Trask.” “A.K. Jenner” was more promising, being especially uncommon. Though just one man with the first initial “A” and the surname “Jenner” served in Union forces during the Civil War, for example—a pretty good indicator of this being an unusual combination—no promising results were discovered thus far from related genealogical research.

Why 13 Stars? As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit their full complement on a small flag. The stars would, by necessity, have to become smaller, which made it more and more difficult to view them from a distance as individual objects. The fear was that too many stars would become as one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships, especially, on the open seas. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on its small-scale flags for precisely this reason. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states. During the period in which the flag that is the subject of this narrative was made, the 3-2-3-2-3 configuration was in active use on U.S. Navy small boat ensigns. This particular flag is not of U.S. Navy origin, but was produced by a professional flag-maker for general patriotic purpose. It may have been made to celebrate our nation’s 100th anniversary, in 1876, or for celebrations of Independence Day at any time thereafter, or for some other reason now long forgotten.

During the 19th century, most flags with pieced-and-sewn construction (as opposed to printed parade flags) were 8 feet long and larger. Even decorative flags, with sewn construction, were typically very large by today’s standards. 13 star flags, however, were a bit of an exception, especially as the turn-of-the-20th century approached. Around 1890, commercial makers began to produce small, sewn flags for the first time in quantity, primarily measuring either 2 x 3 feet or 2.5 x 4 feet. Both larger and smaller examples survive, but are far more scarce. While it is expected to encounter flags that are 8 – 12 feet in length, that display the full star count, during which this 13 star example was produced (1876-1895), at 7.5 feet on the fly, it is actually very large among its 13 star counterparts.

The 13 star count has been used throughout our nation's history, from the beginning to the present, for a variety of purposes. In addition to use by the U.S. Navy, 13 star flags were flown by ships both public and private. For the Navy, this terminated in 1916 by Executive Order of President Woodrow Wilson. They have been flown and waved to celebrate national patriotic events from the very beginning until today, especially from the Civil War (1861-1865) onward. They were displayed during the Civil War to reference past struggles for American liberty, and were displayed by 19th century politicians for the same purpose, in political campaigning. The use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars, surrounding a fouled anchor, allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs between 1848 and 1980. These continue to be flown today, though without an official function.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed in 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. F eel free to contact us for more details.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas.

Condition: In addition to the loss of the grommet and small patch at the bottom of the hoist, where it was present, there are minor to modest tears and small holes throughout, some of which have patched repairs, hand-stitched and of period wool bunting with extremely similar coloration. These are present in the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 11th, 12th, and 13th stripes. There is one square patch made of blue wool, in the canton, adjacent to the hoist. Applied to the reverse and sewn by hand, this is not wool bunting, but rather a clothing fabric of the 19th century. There is a large, rectangular patch at the fly end of the 5th red stripe, applied to the obverse, with a smaller patch of the same fabric on the reverse. Made of what appears to be a blended cotton fabric, possibly with rayon content, these were applied by machine, probably in the 1930’s or 40’s. We can easily remove this if desired, but left it intact for the present, as it tells part of the flag’s story. There is some water staining along the hoist, and there is a minor to modest water stain in the first white stripe, and very minor of the same elsewhere. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1895
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD

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