|48 STARS ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG DESIGNED AND COMMISSIONED BY WAYNE WHIPPLE, 1909-1912, A RARE AND HIGHLY DESIRED, SILK EXAMPLE, IN AN EXCEPTIONAL STATE OF PRESERVATION
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 24.5" x 33"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|15" x 24"
|Many people are not aware that for the first 135 years of the existence of the American national flag, there was no official way to configure its stars. In 1912, that circumstance changed with an Executive Order of President William Howard Taft. Many designs were submitted, but only one today remains common knowledge among most flag enthusiasts. A Philadelphian by the name of Wayne Whipple was one person who would proceed to solidify his name in history, designing and sub-contracting for the manufacture of his own flags, to be made in what would become known as the “Whipple” pattern.
Whipple, who worked in the publishing industry and authored about 28 books, took ads to promote the pattern. He also glorified the design in a book he released called "The Story of the American Flag" (1910, Henry Altemus Company, Philadelphia). He commissioned and distributed small parade flag / hand-waver versions of his design, in pursuit of his goal to be the first person to design the official star pattern for the American flag. Printed on cotton or silk, he took these to rallies and mailed them to influential parties, sometimes repeatedly, accompanied by letters of solicitation. He was a bit of an eccentric for sure. One of the letters of reply, that I was fortunate enough to acquire, begins as such: “Dear Mr. Whipple, thank you for your letter of the 29th instance…” Clearly he was obsessive in his commitment to the task at hand. Today surviving examples of these printed flags are rare and highly desired by collectors.
It is hard to deny that the star configuration that Whipple devised is both insightful and beautiful. In the center are 13 stars, to reflect the original 13 original colonies, arranged in a six-pointed Great Star, like the Star of David (a.k.a., Shield of David). Whipple made no mention of any religious connotation but instead explained that this was simply the most logical way to display 13 stars in a star-shaped formation. The source of the design is easy to locate, as it replicates the configuration on the Great Seal of the United States, most readily viewable on the back of the current U.S. one dollar bill.
Surrounding the Great Star is a wreath of 25 stars to represent those states that had joined the Union through the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary in 1876, and in the outermost wreath are 10 stars for those territories that gained statehood afterward, including the final two that were ushered in under the Taft administration in 1912. Whipple’s concept was that more stars could be easily added to this widely spaced outer wreath without changing the basic design, so that the pattern was not only comely, but also functional for a growing nation with a flag that was ever-changing.
Whipple pattern parade flags exist in both cotton and silk. The example that is the subject of this narrative is of the silk variety, which was slightly larger than his cotton version, with larger stars and bolder in color. Based upon their keen similarity to other silk parade flags of identifiable origin, these were probably produced by the Cheney Silk company of Manchester, Connecticut.
Among flags with pieced-and-sewn construction, only two Whipple pattern flags have thus far been discovered, both of which I was fortunate enough to acquire. One of these was presented to President Taft by Whipple in 1913, then returned to Whipple by the War Department, to which it was forwarded. The flag then descended through the Whipple family, accompanied by Whipple’s own mock-ups, made with foil stars, glued to blue paper, and personal letters regarding his experiences with the campaign to win over influential parties with the design. In them Whipple explained that both Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Taft approved of and endorsed his design. Whipple befriended both men, yet campaigned with Roosevelt in 1912. In the end, recommendations from the War Department drove Taft to endorse the most regimented pattern possible, a rectilinear design with of 6 justified rows of 8 stars.
Across all flags that exist in the 48 star count, the Whipple pattern doesn't only fall among the most rare and unusual, but is an easy contender in the category of most beautiful. Hardly any 48 star flags are known that do not display stars in some assemblage of linear rows; even so, the Whipple configuration is so well-balanced and attractive that it demands attention when paired with just about any star pattern of any period.
With regards to date of manufacture, Whipple's flags are also among the earliest 48 star examples. Cognizant that there were just two Western Territories yet to be added, Whipple begun work on the star pattern in the period when there were 46 states (1907-1912). Though none of his actual flags are dated, some would certainly be anticipatory, pre-dating the addition of New Mexico and Arizona, which occurred on January 6th and February 14th (Valentine’s Day), respectively, in 1912, which brought the star count to 48. Taft’s Executive Order was signed on June 24th, ten days before the 47th and 48th stars were officially added, on July 4th of that year. The 48 star flag was generally used until the addition of Alaska on January 3rd, 1959. It remained official through WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-18), WWII (U.S. involvement 1941-45), and the Korean War (1950-53), until June 3rd, 1959, when it was replaced by the 49 star flag.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own 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 background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a gilded molding of exceptional quality, with a beveled profile, to which a deep molding with a step-down profile molding, and a finish that is a very dark brown, nearly black, with reddish highlights and undertones, was added as a cap. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).
Condition: There are some very light and/or tiny stains, but the overall condition is excellent.
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