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  13 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A 3-2-3-2-3 CONFIGURATION OF STARS ON AN ATTRACTIVE, INDIGO BLUE CANTON AND WITH BEAUTIFUL, ELONGATED PROPORTIONS, LAST DECADE 19TH CENTURY

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 41" x 72"
Flag Size (H x L): 29" x 59.75
Description....:
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 attributed--albeit erroneously in my opinion--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.

13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. They were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1824-25, the celebration of the centennial of American independence in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, 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. 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. 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.

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. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, they chose the 13 star count rather than the full complement of stars.

At approximately 2.5 x 5 feet, this particular example is unusual among its counterparts. Not only is it significantly larger than most, but also more elongated. I have always found long and narrow flags to be particularly attractive, which is certainly the case here, in addition to being more practical for display in an indoor setting. 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 a predictable, if undefined format. Anything that deviates from that draws the attention of flag collectors and enthusiasts alike. The same is true of the color of the canton of this flag, that leans toward indigo, as opposed to the usual navy. Because this trait is both beautiful and different from the norm, it is a desirable attribute.

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.

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 black-painted and hand-gilded molding with its wide, shaped profile, is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas.

Condition: There is minor mothing in the canton and extremely minor occurrences of the same in the striped field. There is very minor soiling along the hoist binding. There are two, small, semi-circular stains there is minor of the same elsewhere throughout. There is a small, light, circular stain in the first white stripe, and another in the last, both approximately 1/3 of the distance back from the hoist end. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1900
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
 

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