Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  HOMEMADE, 13 STAR, ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A 3-2-3-2-3 STAR CONFIGURATION AND EXTREMELY UNUSUAL CONSTRUCTION, PROBABLY MADE FOR THE 1876 CENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 41" x 66"
Flag Size (H x L): 29" x 54"
Description....:
13 star American flag, made entirely of plain weave cotton, homemade, in a great, displayable size, and with some unique construction features that I have not before encountered. Likely made to celebrate of our nation’s100-year anniversary of independence, in 1876, the stars are arranged in rows of 3-2-3-2-3. This was the pattern in use by the U.S. Navy at the time, flown on small boats, because a count of 13—as opposed to the full star count—allowed the stars to be more easily discerned at a distance.

In most cases the 3-2-3-2-3 design 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 it can also be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some feel may identify a link between this star configuration and the British Union Jack, and may have been the design on the very first Stars & Stripes. The pattern 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, who is credited with having played the most significant role in the original design of the American national flag. Hopkinson's original drawings for the design of the flag have not survived, and his other depictions of 13 star arrangements, rendered in the design of other American devices, are inconsistent. Whatever the case may be, this star pattern is the most popular employed from the latter part of the Civil War through the 1st quarter of the 20th century. Note how they are oriented in various directions on their vertical axis, which adds a nice degree of folk quality to the overall design.

All of the cotton employed in the construction of the flag is of a plain weave variety. The stars of the flag are double-appliquéd, meaning that they are applied to both sides. The stitching on the obverse (front) was performed by hand, while the stars on the reverse were treadle-sewn. The canton is made of a single length of blue cotton, and of just one layer, as-would be expected. The striped field is constructed in a fashion I have never before seen, that saved the maker some time in the task of the flag’s manufacture. The red stripes were run against the front and back of a length of white cotton, so that they wrap around it. In the case of the top and bottom stripes, each were positioned in such a fashion that there is a length of white protruding below the red, for the top stripe, and a length of white above, for the bottom stripe. The remainder of had equal portions of white extending above and below. Once this was complete, the field could be completed with just six flat fell seams instead of the usual twelve. Though the amount of fabric necessary to construct the flag was greater, the speed at which it could be made was shorter, and there was likely a secondary benefit, in that the width of each stripe could be better controlled. The canton was joined to the striped field, and the stripes were joined to one-another, with treadle stitching. The hemming of the hoist and fly ends was accomplished with hand-stitching.

The center seams present in each of the white stripe is definitely an unusual feature to the eye, but not an unattractive one. It’s just the sort of personalized touch, rendered by the maker, that makes 19th century examples more interesting academically as well as visually.

Although the specific purpose of the flag is not known, it was most certainly flown for an extended period, as evidenced by wear in predictable spots and repairs.

The small scale of the flag itself is a desirable trait. Prior to the last decade of the 19th century, most flags made for extended outdoor use were very large. Those with pieced-and-sewn construction were generally eight feet long and larger. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals. Today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism. Smaller flags exist in the early periods, but they are the exception. A six-foot example is small among flags of those that pre-date 1890. In the last decade of the 19th century, flag-makers started producing 3 and 4-foot examples for the first time, in significant quantity. These almost universally displayed 13 stars, emulating their use by the Navy. At just 4.5 feet on the fly, this is a very unusual scale, desired by collectors and one-time buyers alike, due to the greater ease of display in an indoor setting.

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 fabric 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 acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is wear from obvious use, consisting of minor to modest fabric breakdown and loss, along the top and bottom of the stripes, more significant at the hoist end. There are more minor occurrences elsewhere in the red stripes. There are minor to modest tears in the 1st, 2nd, and 6th white stripes, and a couple of tiny holes in the 1st, 2nd, and 5th white stripes. There is significant golden brown oxidation in the white fabric, and moderate to significant water staining in and around the center of the flag in the white stripes. There are a couple of minor to modest areas of bleaching, and there is minor to moderate fading of the red stripes. Red patches at the hoist end of the 5th red stripe and at the fly end of the last stripe are repairs, expertly done. Moderate fading of the blue canton occurred in such a pattern as to demonstrate that the flag was hung on a staff for a significant period. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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