Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 34.25' x 25.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 24" x 15"
34 star American national flag, printed on a wool and cotton blended fabric. The stars are arranged in an exceedingly rare type of medallion star pattern. This consists of a large center star, flanked by 3 stars, which together present in a “Y” formation. This is surrounded by a circular wreath of 14 stars, and then again by 16 more that skirt the perimeter of the blue canton, roughly placed in a square, but with uneven edges. The end result is a variant of what I have termed a “circle-in-a-square” medallion, with a “Y” in the center.

Because there was no official star configuration for the American flag until 1912, the design was left to the whims of the maker. Most flags display their stars in lineal rows or columns. Circular medallions fall upon the next rung on the ladder in terms of rarity, comprised of two or three consecutive wreaths, usually with a star in each corner and one in the center, followed by what is known as the “Great Star” pattern, a star made out of stars, which is far more rare and coveted by collectors. Then there are even rarer patterns, such as the circle-in-a-square, which appears most often in 38 and 34 star flags, though it does survives on flags in other star counts. I clearly recall just two other flags in this precise variation, both of which I have had the privilege to own. One of these is presently in the collection of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, as part of the Washingtoniana Collection of Albert Small.

One of the reasons this design is so interesting is because it is unusual, but another is because it has such a strong graphic presence. Note how the stars point in a variety of directions on their vertical axis. Also note the attractive color of the canton, which falls somewhere between cornflower blue and indigo. When combined with the exceptionally rare configuration and a Civil War period date, these traits result in an exceptional example among 19th century flags.

The top and bottom edges of the flag were bound with treadle stitching. There is a treadle-sewn, cotton binding along the hoist with two, tiny, brass grommets. It is my opinion that this flag likely saw military use as a Union Army camp colors, made to mark a military encampment and for military drilling within the camp. Although the hoist measurement is atypically small, and not in line with Army regulations, the length is congruent with identified camp flags. Tons of flags in use during the war deviated from precise military specs. Ordered privately for militia units, by private individuals and organizations that outfitted volunteer regiments, as well as by the War Department, and by state and local governments, strict adherence to documented specifications was neither possible nor practical, as need for flags outweighed supply. Some identified, Civil War camp colors are known that are press-dyed on wool bunting, while other flags that I suspect were made for the same purpose, were printed on the same, wool and cotton, blended fabric as the flag that is the subject of this narrative. Wool content made the flags more durable than those printed on silk or cotton, and was thus more appropriate for long-term, outdoor use. Wool sheds water, but is difficult to print patterns on. Cotton absorbs water and is easy to print. A combination of the two provided some of the benefits of each. Printed wool flags eventually made their way to private use, but their initial purpose seems to have been for U.S. military, ground-force colors and naval ensigns.

Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about 2 ½ months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but most flag makers would have added a 34th star with the addition of Kansas in January. The star count remained official until July 4th, 1863, and 34 star flags would have been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year, just before the Battle of Gettysburg.

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 placed in its correct vertical position, with the canton in the upper left. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount was placed in a solid walnut, American molding of the late 19th century, with Black Forest style carving around the perimeter. To this a gilded American molding of the same period was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: The flag exhibits signs of extensive use. There is minor to moderate to modest soiling throughout, accompanied by a moderate stain in one star and moderate stains near the end of the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 9th, and 11th stripes. There is very minor bleeding of the red dye. There are small nicks and losses along the hoist, more significant toward the top. There is a stitched repair in the canton, where it meets the binding, at and adjacent to the top corner. There is a small tear along the top of the canton, near the fly end side, and there are some weak spots in the blue canton elsewhere. There are numerous tears and weak areas with associated loss throughout the striped field. The most significant of these occur near the fly end of the 1st white stripe, and the top edge of the 4th white stripe, in the center. There is an area of moderate mothing near the fly end of the 2nd and third white stripes. 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: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Kansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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