Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  42 STARS IN A WHIMSICAL MEDALLION CONFIGURATION THAT FEATURES A LARGE, HALOED CENTER STAR AND INCORPORATES 7 TINY STARS; NEVER AN OFFICIAL STAR COUNT, EXCEPTIONALLY RARE, REFLECTS THE ADDITION OF WASHINGTON STATE, circa 1889-1890

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 31.5" x 40.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 19.5" x 28.5"
Description....:
42 star American parade flag, printed on cotton, with an exceptionally unusual form of double-wreath style medallion configuration that features a large center star, with a pinstriped halo, and 7 small stars interspersed. 5 of these are placed between the arms of center star, with the remaining two set wide apart, flanking the circular formation to the left and right.

Although the maker that produced these flags is unknown, others with a haloed center star exist in at least five different star counts including 30, 31, 34, 35, and 36. Three examples also exist, perhaps from different makers, that bear 13 stars. One of these dates to 1856, made for the presidential campaign of James Buchanan. Another was made for the 1860 presidential campaign of John Bell, who ran against Abraham Lincoln, as an independent, on the Constitutional Union Party ticket. Another style, printed on a wool and cotton blended fabric, dates to the 1876 centennial and all of its 13 stars have halos.

This type of 42 star flag was made by hand-carving stars in relief into a block of wood, which was then dipped into red or blue pigment, and applied to white cotton fabric. The star counts of parade flags, printed in this manner, could be updated by carving additional stars into the old block, so that when pressed against the cloth, more would appear in the resulting pattern.

Having owned all of the types of flags listed above, with the exception of the Buchanan variant, I am very familiar with them and the sizes in which they were made. In at least three instances, I have identified flags from the first maker, that were printed with blocks subsequently updated to the 42 star count.

The particular flag that is the subject of this narrative, was created from an identifiable, 35 star print block, used in the late Civil War period (1863-65) to create a type of flag that I am intimately familiar with. 7 smaller stars were added to this design to achieve the count of 42. Interestingly enough, the earlier, 35 star example, while scarce, is far-and-away more common than its 42-star counterpart, in spite of the flag that it was made approximately a quarter century prior.

It is of interest to note that the other two known variants with 42 stars and a haloed center star, both smaller than the flag in question here, were updated from identified print blocks used to create 30 and 34 star flags (dating to 1848-1850, and 1861-1863, respectively). All of the 42 star halos, as I call them, are so rare that I have not encountered more than ten examples in total across all three varieties. Presently I know of six in the largest variety, one in the next size smaller, and three in the smallest. I have had the great privilege to own 8 of the 10. One of the remainder is among the holdings of the State of Wyoming. The last I mounted and framed for a dear friend and client.

Well beyond the rarity and the interesting trail of updated print blocks, what really makes this flag terrific is its presentation. The whimsical star pattern is balanced, bold, and dynamic—as good as about anything I can think of in 19th century examples of the Star & Stripes. The soldier blue color of the canton is certainly attractive, but the saturated, sunburnt red is extraordinarily beautiful.

Unlike most antique textiles that are avidly collected, flags were generally used outdoors and there is something about a degree of wear that makes them more appealing. In some cases, if visually interesting, even a ton of wear can be great from a visual perspective, actually increasing desirability as opposed to decreasing it. Note how the losses in this example tell a story of its obvious use, translating its age in an endearing and attractive fashion.

The 42 star flag is interesting from a historical perspective, both because 42 was never an official count, and because 42 star flags were only produced for about 8 months, from November, 1889 – July 4th, 1890. After 1818, star counts became official on the 4th of July each year. A new star was therefore officially added on Independence Day for every state that had been added over the preceding “flag year”. Flag makers, however, did not wait for July 4th and official star counts. Flag production was a competitive industry and no one wanted to be making 38 star flags, for example, when their competitors were making 42’s and there were 42 states.

In 1876, the year of our nation’s centennial of independence, some flag-makers were producing 37 star flags to reflect what would actually remain the official number until July 4th, 1877. Many were making 38 star flags to include Colorado, that joined the Union to become the “Centennial State” on August 1st, 1876. Still others were making flags with 39 stars, in anticipation of the addition of not only Colorado, but the Dakota Territory, then thought to be coming as one state.

13 years would then pass without the addition of more states—the longest such period in the 19th century. At the same time, America was growing and production was getting more advanced. Private citizens were displaying the American flag more than they ever had in history. By 1889, some flag-makers were once again producing 39 star flags, in anticipation of the Dakota Territory, which entered on November 2nd as two separate states, a fact that rendered all 39 star examples both unofficial and inaccurate for so much as a day. The Dakotas were closely followed by Montana, on the 8th of that month, and Washington State on the 11th. With 4 new states in less than a week-and-a-half, most flag makers added 4 stars, accordingly, to the count of 38 still official at the time.

Less than 8 months later, on July 3rd, 1890, Idaho joined the Union as the 43rd state, taking the count of states to 43 just one day before the 42 star flag would have become official. Interestingly enough, almost all flag-makers skipped the 43 star count entirely, once again in spite of its official status, because Wyoming gained statehood on July 10th. The preceding series of events makes 42 star flags both an interesting part of our nation’s heritage and a classic display of American capitalism.

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% cotton, black in color, that was washed and treated for colorfastness. The black-painted molding, with its wide, sculpted profile and gilded inner lip, is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: There is modest fabric breakdown with associated loss, the most significant of which occurs in the lower half of the hoist end, in the white area beyond the printing, and at the fly end. Period cotton fabric of similar coloration was placed behind the flag along the hoist. There is minor foxing and water staining throughout, accompanied by modest to moderate of the same along the fly end. There is very minor to minor pigment loss and fading. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The extreme rarity of this example, accompanied by its wonderful presentation, all but nullify any condition issues.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 42
Earliest Date of Origin: 1889
Latest Date of Origin: 1890
State/Affiliation: Washington
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD
 

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