Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 38" x 59.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 26" x 48.25"
13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. They were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the centennial of American independence 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.

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 of them close together would become as one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas. Keeping the count low allowed for better visibility. For this reason the U.S. Navy flew 13 star flags on small boats. Some private ship owners mirrored this practice and flew 13 star flags during the same period as the navy.

Flag experts disagree about the precisely when the Navy began to revert to 13 stars and other low counts. Some feel that the use of 13 star flags never ceased, which seems to be supported by depictions of American ships in period artwork. 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. Any American flag that has previously been official remains so according to the flag acts, so it remains perfectly acceptable to fly 13 star flags today by way of congressional law.

For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3 to 4 feet in length before the 1890's. There are exceptions to this rule, but until this time, the smallest sewn flags were typically 6 feet on the fly. The primary use had long been more utilitarian than decorative, and flags needed to be large to be effective as signals. Private use grew with the passage of time, however, which led to the need for long-term use flags of more manageable scale.

Beginning around 1890, flag-makers began to produce small flags for the first time in large quantities, namely with dimensions of 2 x 3 feet or 2.5 x 4 feet. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, they chose the 13 star count rather than the full complement of stars, for sake of ease and visibility. The practice of using 13 stars on many of the smallest sewn flags seems to have remained popular through the 1920's, and while all manner of flags were available by special order, regular production of 13 star examples afterward saw steep decline. Lack of surviving 13 star flags following the 1926 sesquicentennial of American independence (150 years) illustrates how a lower level production persisted until the 1970’s, with the approach of our nation’s 200th birthday in 1976.

Probably made during the latter 1890’s, and measuring just over 2 x 4 feet, this particular flag is not only more elongated than most of its counterparts, but is far more beautiful than most anything of this general era, including the respective genre of 13 star examples. Since there was no official star configuration until the 48 star flag, in 1912, the stars on 13 star flags may appear in any one of a host of designs. Some of these are more rare and desirable than others. Here they are arranged in a circular wreath of 12, with an especially bold and much larger star in the very center.

This basic configuration, whether oval or circular, has come to be known as the "3rd Maryland Pattern". Sometimes the center star is large and other times not. The design is particularly desirable due to both its visual attractiveness and the scarcity of its use. The name comes from a flag that resides at the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis, long thought to have been present with General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781. According to legend, the flag was supposed to have been carried by Color Sergeant William Batchelor of the Maryland Light Infantry and was donated to the State of Maryland by Batchelor's descendants. The story was disproved in the 1970's, however, following an examination by the late flag expert Grace Rogers Cooper of the Smithsonian. She discovered that the Cowpens flag was, at the earliest, of Mexican War vintage (1846-48).

Among flag collectors and enthusiasts, the name "3rd Maryland" stuck to the pattern. The term actually received some legitimacy through the existence of a similar flag, in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History & Technology, with verified Maryland provenance. This was carried by the Maryland and District of Columbia Battalion of Volunteers during the Mexican War. While the configuration is known to be an early one, as evidenced by 18th century illustrations, this star pattern is most often encountered among surviving examples that date to the mid-19th century, roughly within the Mexican War to Civil War time frame (1846-1865). It also sometimes appears in these small-scale, commercially-produced flags of the 1890-1920 era.

13 star flags of this era with stars in the 3rd Maryland pattern are very scarce. Approximately seventy percent of such flags have stars arranged in a staggered row design, in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, while approximately twenty-five percent appear in a medallion configuration that features a center star, surrounded by a wreath of stars, with a flanking star in each corner of the canton. Fewer than five percent appear in some other design, such as this one. The more unusual star patterns tend to appear on flags that were probably produced in the 1890's or shortly thereafter.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, note how the tightly spaced wreath is positioned, in the center of wide, elongated field, which adds significant graphic interest to the design. When this fact is combined with the long narrow format of the flag itself, a desirable star pattern, the size of the center star, and strong colors, the result is a spectacular example of the period.

Construction: The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with machine stitching. The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides of the flag) with a zigzag machine stitch. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two brass grommets. A black, stenciled, numeral “4” near the top, on the obverse, indicates size in feet.

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 flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support throughout. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that was washed and treated for colorfastness. The black-painted and gilded molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is very minor staining along the hoist and in the stars. The black stencil has faded. There are a number minor to modest holes in the striped field, accompanied by a modest hole in the last white stripe, near the center, and a modest to moderate tear in the last red stripe, near the fly end. The flag presents beautifully. 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: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1900
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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