|13 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A DUSTY BLUE CANTON, MADE IN THE ERA OF THE 1876 CENTENNIAL, IN AN INTERESTING CONFIGURATION THAT FEATURES TRIOS OF STARS IN EACH CORNER AND A SINGLE, CENTER STAR; A RARE VARIANT THAT I CLASSIFY “TRI-CORNER HAT” MEDALLION
|Frame Size (H x L):
|47.25" x 70.5"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|36.75" x 60.25"
|13 star American national flag, made in the general era of the 1876 centennial of American independence, between 1870 and the 1880's, with beautifully hand-sewn stars. These are arranged in an interesting variant of the medallion pattern. At first glance, this appears to be a rendition of a popular configuration that features a wreath of 8 stars, surrounding a single, center star, with a flanking star in each corner of the canton. This attractive design emerged during the Civil War and became very popular afterwards, most notably between the 100th and 150th anniversaries of American independence, 1876-1926. On closer examination, one will discover that this wreath is not circular, but that the stars are instead arranged in four distinct triangles, with a single star in the center of the formation.
A similar pattern appears on a very rare variety of Civil War era parade flag, printed on cotton, that measures approximately 4 x 6.5 inches. A good friend and flag expert used to call this variety a “tri-corner hat” medallion. Because that name seemed especially fitting, and ideal for differentiating the odd variety, I have always liked this selection of terms. It’s occurrence in flags with pieced-and-sewn construction is even more rare.
The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced and joined with treadle stitching. There is a plain weave cotton binding along the hoist, into which a length of braided twine was inserted and hand-stitched into position, along the extreme outer edge. There are two button hole grommets, stitched by machine, one each at the extreme top and bottom.
At just five-and-a-half feet on the fly, feet, the small scale of the flag versus its counterparts of the same period is very desirable. Prior to the last decade of the 19th century, most flags made for extended outdoor use were very large. Those with pieced-and-sewn construction were generally eight feet long and larger. Even infantry battle flags, carried on foot, were 6 x 6.5 feet. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals, where today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism. Smaller flags exist in the early periods, but they are the exception as opposed to the rule.
Why 13 Stars?
13 star flags have been continuously produced throughout our nation’s history for purposes both patriotic and utilitarian. This was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the original 13 colonies, so was appropriate for any flag made in conjunction with celebrations of American independence. In addition to use at the 1876 centennial, 13 star flags were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the sesquicentennial in 1926, and celebrations of July 4th. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty, 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. Private ship owners often mirrored Navy practice.
Flag experts disagree about precisely when the Navy began to revert to 13 stars and other low counts. Some feel that the use of 13 star flags never stopped, which seems to be supported by depictions of 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.
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 was flat-lined with hand-stitching to 100% natural fabrics throughout for support. It was then hand-stitched to 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The custom-made, high-grade, solid mahogany molding has a deep, rectangular, shadow box profile and a black-painted finish with a matte / satin finish. To this a flat profile molding, with a finish like old gunmetal, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic Plexiglas. Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: There is minor to modest mothing throughout, accompanied by modest to moderate of the same in the 10th – 13th stripes. There is an area of moderate to significant losses in the 7th stripe, towards the fly end, and a moderate area of loss in the 5th white stripe, just to the left of center. Period fabric of similar coloration was placed behind some of the above areas during the mounting process. There is a silk patch along the top edge of the flag, adjacent to the fly end. There is modest soiling along the hoist binding and in the stars, and minor to modest soiling in the striped field, in addition to a few small, minor stains. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
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