Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 60.5" x 84.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 48.5" x 72.5"
Many people are unaware that individual states generally didn't adopt flags until the turn-of-the-century (1900) and shortly thereafter, when World's Fair events had reached their height of popularity. It was at this time that those without them rushed to conform, so that displays of the flags of all states would not find them absent, and the beautiful, stand-alone buildings that often housed their exhibits, masterfully designed, would not be without a key means of identification.

Although North Carolina didn't adopt a flag until May 20th, 1861, this actually meant that it was among the earliest to do so. Like some of its Southern brethren, the decision coincided with one to secede from the Union. In this case, North Carolina's declaration to join the Confederacy occurred on the very same day. Due to split views on the issue of slavery, with its western population, in the more mountainous regions, generally at odds with and disliking the more aristocratic, eastern-dwelling plantation owners, the decision to leave the Union occurred with some hesitation. Only after the secession of Virginia did this occur. At this point, siding with the federal government would have left North Carolina like an island, geographically stranded.

The original flag of the state looked very much like it does today. This was comprised of three bars, one vertical, along the hoist end, followed by two horizontal. The primary difference between the original and the current flag is that the colors of red and blue were reversed. The first flag, therefore, had a red bar, followed by blue over white. In the center of the red register was a single white star, above and below which were important dates in North Carolina history. Above was May 20th, 1775. This was the date of the supposed adoption of the Mecklenburg Declaration, purported to be the very first instance in which a group of citizens -- in this case, the residents of Mecklenburg County -- formally announced independence. As the story goes, the act occurred shortly after the British attack in Lexington and the outbreak of war. Though the original document does not exist, and is thought by most scholars to be but a myth, the date remains on the current North Carolina flag. True or not, the sentiment and meaning remain part of North Carolina's independent, patriotic pride and lore.

Below the star, on the original flag, was the date of the state's secession, which remarkably occurred on the very same day as the Mecklenburg Declaration, 86 years later. This flag, with its blue-over-white bars at the fly end, remained official until 20 years after the Civil War ended.

The current North Carolina flag (with slightly different measurements) was adopted in March of 1885. State Adjutant General Johnston Jones presented a bill that swapped the red and blue colors, aligning them more closely with the Stars & Stripes. At the same time the new design removed the date of secession, replacing it with that of something called the Halifax Resolves. This was another patriotic, Revolutionary War reference, this time well-documented, in which the state's Fourth Provincial Congress unanimously voted for independence, while urging other states to follow. Because North Carolina was the first state to issue such an act, it was a fitting counterpoint to the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration, real or otherwise, further cementing the shift toward American patriotism, as opposed to Southern sympathies. Jones' bill also called for the dates to be set upon gilded, scrolling banners and for the initials of the state to be added in gilt letters, flanking the white star to the left and right.

This particular flag was constructed by the Annin Company in New York City. The blue, red, and white bars are made of wool bunting that has been pieced and joined with machine stitching. The gold “NC,” white star, gold banners, and the black lettering within them were all appliqued with a zigzag machine stitch. There is a sailcloth canvas binding along the hoist with 2 brass grommets. Along this is a blue inked stamp that reads “Sterling; Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.,” followed by “4 x 6” to indicate size in feet. Sterling was a brand name of the Annin company. Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. The company was founded in the 1820's on the New York waterfront, incorporated in 1847, and, though it opened a large manufacturing operation in Verona, New Jersey in 1916, maintained its head office and some production in Manhattan until 1960. Sterling was a trademark for one of Annin’s two highest grades of wool bunting.

The following text was inscribed along the binding with a dip pen: “Jessica Randolf Smith; February 28th, 1921.” followed by “Presented to ‘The Club of Colonial Dames’ May 26th, 1921.” Jessica Randolf Smith (b. August, 1865 - July 26th, 1936) was the daughter of Captain Orren Randolf Smith, who claimed to have been the designer of the 1st national flag of the Confederacy, now thought to have been either a misunderstanding, myth, or some combination of both. Jessica was an avid member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames of 1846. She served as commandant of the latter in North Carolina. The organization served to assist veterans of the Mexican War (1846-48), of which her father was one. Smith was active in her pursuit of things such as pensions for Mexican War vets, which remained a significant topic in 1900, during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1908), as evidenced by surviving letters between Jessica and TR.

North Carolina state flags of this period are very rare. I almost never encounter interesting examples. Because there was very little use of state flags in general, during the first quarter of the 20th century, few were made and fewer survived. The existence of this particular flag was apparently the result of having been commissioned from Annin by Jessica Randolf Smith, a patriotic North Carolinian, deeply involved in state history and veteran’s affairs, and far more concerned than most with state-associated symbols.

Mounting: The flag has been mounted within our own 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 background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount will be placed in a modern, silver colored molding. The glazing will be U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is some soiling and bleeding in the white bar, accompanied by minor mothing. There is some soiling elsewhere. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The flag presents beautifully.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1921
Latest Date of Origin: 1921
State/Affiliation: North Carolina
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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