|EXTRAORDINARY 34 STAR ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH AN ACCORDION OR HOURGLASS MEDALLION CONFIGURATION THAT SURROUNDS A PENTAGON OF STARS IN THE CENTER; MADE OF FINE SILK AND ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN; MADE DURING THE OPENING YEARS OF THE CIVIL WAR (1861-63), IN A TINY SIZE AMONG ITS COUNTERPARTS OF THE PERIOD; REFLECTS THE ADDITION OF KANSAS AS THE 34TH STATE
|Frame Size (H x L):
|38" x 56.5"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|26.5" x 46.5"
|34 star flag of the Civil War period with an array of rare, beautiful, and otherwise desirable features. Extremely small among flags of this period with pieced and sewn construction, the flag displays a star pattern that is not only highly unusual, but unique to this particular example. This consists of a single star in the very center, surrounded by a pentagon of stars, flanked by angular bracket of three stars to either side. Above and below are rows of 5 stars, followed by rows of 6 that line the top and bottom of the canton. The resulting configuration is what I have termed an “accordion medallion,” though “hourglass medallion” or “standing bow tie” would be perfectly acceptable.
When rotated 90 degrees, to view the harder-to-identify, bow tie formation, students of early star patterns may note the visual similarity between this and what I call “Starburst” or “Crosshatch” medallions. The pattern, however, conspicuously lacks the crosses of St. Andrew (a saltire) and St. George (roman cross), that would allow it to be more accurately categorized as such.
Entirely hand-sewn, the canton and stripes of the flag are made of fine silk. The hemming of this was accomplished with great skill. The top and bottom edges are selvedge. These are so similar in nature as to have come from the same maker. There is a white, silk binding along the hoist, in the form of an open sleeve, through which a length of braided hemp rope was passed, expertly looped and re-braided into itself at the top and bottom for strength.
The stars are made of white, polished cotton. These were stitched to both sides (double-appliqued). Note how the edges of the fabric were not turned under, providing evidence of the fact that the maker was not especially skilled in appliqueing. This was common, as applique work was far more difficult than producing French seams.
In the 19th century, most flags with pieced and sewn construction were 8 feet long and larger. A six-footer was considered small. Even military battle flags, carried on foot, measured 6’ x 6.5’, which translates into approximately 7’ x 7.5’ after framing, about the size of an average quilt and larger than can comfortably fit on a wall in a house with 8-foot ceilings and average width baseboard. Flags smaller than this were produced both commercially and at home, but the smaller they are, the more unusual they are. At just 26.5 x 46.5 inches, this flag is extremely small for a Civil war period flag with sewn construction.
Silk was both beautiful and lightweight, which made it elegant for military unit colors and preferable for flags meant to be carried on foot. Most outdoor use flags were made of wool bunting, a fabric peculiar to flag making, that was not used in the making of clothes or upholstery work. Wool sheds water. Cotton absorbs water, making it heavy and subject to rot. Silk was both fragile and inadvisable to expose to water, and the way in which it was sold, in the latter 19th century, led to an inordinate amount of fabric breakdown and loss.
The size of the flag, while not precisely conforming to U.S. Army regulations, would adapt well enough for use as a guidon, but the rope hoist was not typical for flags carried on foot.
If flown on land, this flag was more likely to have been run up a flagpole on a pulley system. Because it was too small to be effective as a signal on a building of significant size, it was more likely to have been employed at the headquarters of an officer. Though well cared for, the flag displays precisely the sort of losses I would expect of a flag that was flown outdoors for an extended period of time. Note the losses at the top and bottom of the hoist binding, as well as along the fly, including in the upper and lower corners. Because silk was costly and in short supply during wartime, it is likely that the recipient of the flag was someone of high stature. Whatever the case may be, the size, fabrics, Civil War date, and its unique star configuration, combine to make it an exceptional example of the period.
Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about two-and-a-half months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. Though the 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, no one cared about official star counts and most flag makers would have added a 34th star with the addition of the state earlier that year. 34 star flags would have been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of 1863, shortly before the Battle of Gettysburg. The 34 star count remained official until July 4th, 1863. Because production was heaviest during the war’s opening two years, 34 is the most common star count seen on Civil War flags.
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 background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for color fastness. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: There are minor to modest losses in the striped field, most notably at the fly end in the 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th, and 13th stripes. There are three areas of modest loss near the bottom, hoist end corner, in the last two white stripes. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind some of these areas during the mounting process, for masking purposes. There are minor losses along the hoist binding, accompanied by moderate occurrences at the top and bottom, caused by the stress of being flown and contact with the coarse rope. There is very minor to modest soiling in limited areas and there is moderate fading of the red silk fabric. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
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|Earliest Date of Origin:
|Latest Date of Origin:
|1861-1865 Civil War
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