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  ANTIQUE AMERICAN PRIVATE YACHT ENSIGN WITH 13 SINGLE-APPLIQUÉD, HAND-SEWN STARS & CANTED ANCHOR, A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE, MADE BY ANNIN IN NEW YORK CITY, CIRCA 1865-1885

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 38.25" x 52.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 27" x 41.25"
Description....:
The medallion configuration, 13-star, 13-stripe flag, with a canted center anchor, was entered into official use in 1848, following an act of Congress, that made it the official signal for U.S. pleasure sailing vessels. The need for such a flag arose with the popularity of boating as a pastime for well-to-do Americans, and as a competitive sport, in addition to its longstanding utilitarian role as a vehicle of trade. In early America, all boats were subject to customs searches at every port. Without modern income tax, the federal government derived its revenues mostly from tariffs, so an accounting of foreign goods on ships was a critical venture. As yachting for pleasure became more prevalent, however, more and more time was spent searching boats that had no such inventory, wasting time for both customs officials and wealthy ship owners.

John Cox Stevens (1775 - 1857), one of the most important members of New York society, was responsible for bringing this flag to fruition. Stevens was the paternal grandson of John Stevens Jr., New Jersey delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and the son of Revolutionary War officer, Colonel John Stevens, a pioneer in the development of steamboats and purchaser of what is now the City of Hoboken. Among other ventures, John Cox Stevens served as president of the Jockey Club (United Kingdom), was a founding member and 2nd president of New York's Union Club (est. 1836), and founding Commandant of the New York Yacht Club (elected 1844/est. 1845). He was part of the syndicate that own the yacht "America," which, in 1851, won the trophy that would eventually be named in its honor, the America's Cup.

In 1847, Stevens approached the secretary of the treasury and suggested that something be done to streamline the customs process for non-trade vessels. In 1848, legislation passed Congress requiring registration of these boats, which could then fly the “American Yachting Signal” to bypass customs. This remained on the books until the 1980’s. Though the 1848 legislation was revoked, flags in this design, flown for decorative function, continues to this day.

The stars and anchor are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but also because they are more visually intriguing. The two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction. For these reasons single-appliquéd stars often appeal to connoisseurs of early American textiles. The canton and the stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with machine stitching. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist, applied with treadle stitching with two brass grommets. Along this, on the obverse (front), a maker's mark was added by way of a black stencil. This reads: "Annin & CO. N.Y. 3 ½ XX.” 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. This is an early Annin mark, of the sort that appears between the mid-1860's and the 1889. The combination of this and the flag's construction suggests mid-1870's or early 1880's.

13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. In addition to their use on private yachts, they were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s final visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the nation’s centennial in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians while campaigning for the same reason. The U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats until 1916, because it was easier to discern fewer stars at a distance on a small flag. Commercial flag-makers mirrored this practice and some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own textile conservation department, which is led by expert trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field for support. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for color fastness. The mount was placed in a deep, cove-shaped molding with a very dark brown surface, nearly black, and a rope-style inner lip, to which a black-painted, hand-gilded, and distressed molding was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. Protective acrylic (Plexiglas)

Condition: There are tiny and extremely minor holes in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 8th stripes, accompanied by a minor hole in the 3rd stripe. There is minor golden brown oxidation along the hoist and in the stars, accompanied by minor to modest soiling in the white stripes, beyond the canton, the most significant of which occurs in the first white stripe and in all towards the fly end. There is a streak of minor soiling in the first red stripe, and very minor of the same in the red stripes, toward the fly end. 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: 1865
Latest Date of Origin: 1885
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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