Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 47" x 34"
Flag Size (H x L): 34.75" x 21.75"
Printed on coarse cotton, in the manner of a parade flag, this rare patriotic banner features a monochromatic rendition of the state seal of Ohio, rendered in blue on a white ground and set within a circular red disk against 13 red and white stripes. An ellipse of 13 stars appears above this on a blue ground, surrounding the word "Ohio." An additional flanking star in each corner brings the total to 17 to reflect Ohio's admission to the Union as the 17th state on February 19th, 1803. This took place during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson and in the same year that Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase.

Produced sometime between roughly 1890 and 1905, the combination of pigments and fabrics can be encountered on 44 and 45 star parade flags of the same era. It is of interest to note, however, that this version of the state seal, with its scrollwork, shield-shaped border, reflects a design proposed in 1865 and adopted in 1866, only to be replaced just two years later, in 1868.

To understand the imagery within the device, a bit of early Ohio history is required. When Ohio became the first state to be created from within the Northwest Territory, a provision for an official state seal had already been approved. This actually occurred in the previous calendar year, on November 29th, 1802, before Ohio had even achieved statehood. The verbiage was part of the Ohio State Constitution, formally adopted on that date, which took effect about two weeks after statehood, on March 3rd, 1803.

While the creation of a seal was authorized, no actual design was specified until March 25th of that year, when a sketch was submitted by Ohio's first Secretary of State, William Creighton, Jr.. Circular in shape, the imagery was directed to include: "On the right side, near the bottom, a sheaf of wheat, and on the left a bundle of seventeen arrows, both standing erect…[and] behind them, a mountain, over which shall appear a rising sun." This was to be surrounded by lettering with its formal title: "The Great Seal of the state of Ohio." The count of arrows was to reflect Ohio's admission as the 17th state. The Mountains are thought to represent a view of Mt. Logan from the home of Thomas Worthington, Ohio's first Senator, near the modern-day city of Chillicothe.

Though readopted in 1805 [this time without any descriptive text whatsoever in the verbiage of the act], the seal is reported to have quickly fallen out of use. Twenty-six years later, in 1831, the act that created the seal was actually repealed. Between that year and the close of the Civil War (1861-65), no official coat of arms existed, though a number variant designs were produced.

In 1865, fueled by irritation with inconsistency, and embarrassment that other state seals were larger and more elaborate than the original and now long unofficial one being used in Ohio (likely with a great deal of artist's liberty and variation), Secretary of State William Henry Smith called for a new device. The revised design included a border in the form of a shield. It also added the following elements to the imagery: "In the left foreground, a river shall be represented flowing toward the right foreground; supporting the shield, on the right, shall be a figure of a farmer, with the implements of agriculture, and sheafs of wheat standing erect and recumbent; and in the distance, a locomotive and train of cars; [while] supporting the shield, on the left, shall be the figure of a smith with anvil and hammer; and in the distance, water, with a steamboat…" It also provided for a Latin motto, "Imperium in Imperio" [a state within a state], to appear at the bottom of the shield. Governor Jacob Dolson Cox issued a proclamation on November 5, 1866, that describes and bears the proposed seal, though it was apparently never adopted by the Ohio legislature.

While the re-design was put forth with good intention, the state budget did not contain the necessary funds for implementation. For this reason, in 1868, a newly elected Democrat legislature rejected the 1866 version and re-adopted the 1803 original.

Because the "Imperium in Imperio" motto glorified states' rights, it had been a very odd choice for a Northern State in the wake of the Civil War, especially since it was approved by the anti-slavery, Republican, Ohio legislature. What is even more strange is that it was actually removed in 1868 by the newly elected Democrat majority.

In any event, despite the lack of funds, the 1866 version was apparently well-liked. Adaptations of it are said to have appeared regularly throughout the balance of the 19th century and even into the early 20th. Evidence of this fact is clearly displayed on the banner that is the subject of this narrative. Just 9 arrows appear on this version, instead of the prescribed 17, consistent in both the 1803 original and the 1866 proclamation. This can probably be chalked up to human error. The engraver may have been looking at a small sketch, if not an actual 2" or 2.5" embossed seal, possibly with some notes, but no clue as to the importance in the number of shafts.

This particular example is extremely scarce, with just 5 examples presently known. I am aware of no other style of 19th century printed, parade flag banners of this nature to exist that represents Ohio. Because early textiles with some sort of tie to the state are very rare, the survival of this graphically pleasing textile, with great, patriotic colors, offers a wonderful opportunity for a collector to own a historically intriguing piece of Ohio history.

Provenance: Exhibited from June 12th – September 6th, 2021 at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, in an exhibit entitled “Flags & Founding Documents.” The flag portion of this, curated by Jeff Bridgman, featured 43 flags that span American history as we progressed from 13 to 50 stars, with a particular focus on not only flags that display the anticipated and/or actual addition of states, but the subtraction of both Union and Slave States during the Antebellum and the Civil War periods. Mounting: The banner was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and presentation of flags and have preserved thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There minor foxing and staining throughout, accompanied by minor to modest fading. There is a lineal tear above the sun rays in the state seal and there are a couple of small holes below it, as well as a small hole in one of the stars. Period fabric of similar coloration and weave was place behind these areas during the mounting process. There are a few pinprick-sized holes elsewhere. 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: Parade flag
Star Count: 17
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1905
State/Affiliation: Ohio
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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