Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: 13j-1628
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 35.5" x 45"
Flag Size (H x L): 24.5" x 34.25"
This 13 star antique American flag is of a type made during the last decade of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th. The stars are arranged in rows of 3-2-3-2-3, which is the most often seen pattern in 13 star flags of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries.

In most cases the 3-2-3-2-3 design can also be viewed as a diamond of stars, with a star in each corner and a star in the very center. It is of interest to note that the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern can also be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some feel could have been the design of the very first American flag and may identify a link between this star configuration and the British Union Jack. The pattern is often erroneously attributed to New Jersey Senator Francis Hopkinson, a member of the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, who is credited with having played the most significant role in the original design of the American national flag. Hopkinson's original drawings for the design of the flag have not survived and his other depictions of 13 star arrangements for other devices are inconsistent.

The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag machine stitch. The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with lineal, machine stitching. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist, with two brass grommets, along which there is a black, inked stencil that reads “2 x 3”, to indicate size in feet.

Note how the coloration of the canton is close to a true indigo. Note also how the canton is proportionally near-to-square, and how the flag itself gives the same impression, even though, on paper, the dimensions are approximately 10 inches apart. This is somewhat unusual for this type of 13 star flag, in this time frame, and the proportions add a degree of visual interest to the overall presentation, as does the color. Because there were no official proportions for the Stars & Stripes until 1912, there were no specified requirements in this regard. That said, the vast majority of flags conformed to the sort of rectangular format that one might expect today. Anything that deviates from that draws the attention of flag collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Why 13 Stars?
We have made 13 star flags in America from at least 1777, when the First Flag Act was passed, until the present. Since that time, they have been continuously produced for reasons both patriotic and utilitarian. Because this was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the 13 colonies, it was keenly appropriate for any device made in conjunction with notions of American independence. They were hoisted at patriotic events of all kinds, including Lafayette’s final visit to the U.S. in 1825-1826, the celebration of our nation’s centennial of in 1876, annual observances of Independence Day, and countless others.

From at least 1840 onward, 13 star flags were produced for presidential campaigns, drawing a parallel between the past and present struggles for freedom, and were carried by soldiers during the Mexican and Civil Wars for the same purpose. Throughout history, and even today, they are boldly displayed at every presidential inauguration.

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.

Prior to the 1890’s flags with pieced-and-sewn construction, as opposed to printed parade flags, were typically 8 feet long and larger. A 6-footer was considered small. During the last decade of the 19th century, 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, like this example. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, they chose the 13 star count rather than the full complement of stars. For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags in these sizes, with pieced-and-sewn construction, with rare exception, until well into the 20th century.

The use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding a fouled anchor, which allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs between 1848 and 1980, persists today without an official purpose. Because any flag that has previously been official, remains so today, according to the flag acts, 13 star flags both were and currently remain official flags of the United States.

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. The black fabric has been washed and treated for color fastness. The cove-shaped molding has a textured surface, a rope style inner lip, and a very dark brown surface, nearly black, with reddish highlights and undertones. 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).

Condition: There is very minor mothing in the canton and there is minor of the same elsewhere throughout. There are instances of modest mothing near the beginning of the 5th and 6th stripes, in addition to along the lower edge of the seam, in the 9th stripe, adjacent to the hoist, and on the lower edge of the 11th stripe, about 4/5ths of the way across, near the fly end. There is some soiling along the hoist binding. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Beginners and Holiday Gift Giving
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1895
Latest Date of Origin: 1926
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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