Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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ONE OF THE TWO BEST OF ALL KNOWN FLAGS ADVERTISING ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S 1864 INCUMBENT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, WITH VICE PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE ANDREW JOHNSON; ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN, WITH A DOUBLE-WREATH CONFIGURATION OF 34 STARS, IN THREE DIFFERENT SIZES, THAT FEATURES HUGE STARS IN EACH CORNER, WITH 9 STRIPES AND WITH ITS CANTON RESTING ON THE WAR STRIPE, BOLD LETTERING , AND IN AN IDEAL SCALE AMONG ALL FLAGS OF THIS ERA

ONE OF THE TWO BEST OF ALL KNOWN FLAGS ADVERTISING ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S 1864 INCUMBENT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, WITH VICE PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE ANDREW JOHNSON; ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN, WITH A DOUBLE-WREATH CONFIGURATION OF 34 STARS, IN THREE DIFFERENT SIZES, THAT FEATURES HUGE STARS IN EACH CORNER, WITH 9 STRIPES AND WITH ITS CANTON RESTING ON THE WAR STRIPE, BOLD LETTERING , AND IN AN IDEAL SCALE AMONG ALL FLAGS OF THIS ERA

Web ID: 34j-1015
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 33.25" x 56.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 23.25" x 46
 
Description:
Entirely hand-sewn American national flag, made of plain wave cotton, arranged in a double-wreath style medallion configuration. This particular example consists of two consecutive rings of stars, with a larger star in the very center, and a huge star in each corner of the cornflower blue canton. The fact that the flanking corner stars are so much larger than those in the circular configuration within is not only a rare element, but one with tremendous folk quality and visual impact.

Note that the flag bears only 9 stripes instead of the usual 13. For reasons not always well understood in vexillology, early flags—especially those made prior to and during the Civil War (1861-1865)—sometimes do not display the full stripe. In the case of a Civil War era flag made following the secession of North Carolina on May 20th, 1861, the count of 9 on a pro-Union flag removes a stripe for that state, as well as the three previously seceded Slave States of South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia, each of which was one of the 13 original colonies. The state legislatures of these four states formally voted in favor of secession, with both subsequent ratification of that vote and formal acceptance by the Confederate States of America. Though Delaware and Maryland were both original colonies and were Slave States, these did not secede. Neither was accepted into the Confederacy. Both were considered Border States, having supplied troops to both sides of the war, and with populations more divided on the slavery issue.

Although Lincoln requested that Americans not remove the Southern States from the flag, in accordance with his goal of keeping the Union together, there was no legislation prohibiting the manufacture of flags that removed stripes and/or stars, and even if there had been, there were no “flag police,” as one of my friends like to put it. Thus people did as they wished with regard to all aspects of flag design, the parameters of which remained largely unspecified anyway. Prior to 1912, there was no official number of points that the stars had to have, no official shades of red and blue, no official proportions, and no official place that the canton need to be placed within the striped field. With regard to the latter of these traits, note how the canton of this particular flag rests on a red stripe. When this condition exists, we say that they canton rests on the “war stripe” or the “blood stripe.” This feature, while rare, has been suggested by some flag enthusiasts to have been incorporated when our nation was at war. Surviving examples, obviously made outside wartime, illustrate that the placement was simply a deviation from what is normally seen. Remember, there was no official placement. That said, the condition of a canton resting on a red stripe is loved by collectors, both because it is rare and because the myth itself is interesting one. Whatever the case may be with regard the legitimacy of the war stripe theory, the placement does seem to occur most often in flags of the Civil War, and in the homemade flags of WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-1918). It also tends to be more prevalent in flags with stripe counts both greater and less than 13.

Kansas joined the union as the 34th state in January of 1861, the war’s opening year. Although the 34th star was officially added for the state on July 4th of that year, flag makers both private and commercial concern themselves very little with what was official. Generally speaking, as soon as someone knew a state was coming, a star would be added, sometimes before the state had even entered, in hopeful anticipation. The frequency of the making of what we call “anticipatory flags” increased from the time of the Civil War through the latter part of the 19th century, into the very beginning of the 20th. The 34 star count remained official until July 3rd, 1863. Production would have generally ceased shortly beforehand, when West Virginia broke off from Virginia to become the 35th state on June 20th of that year, immediately before the Battle of Gettysburg. Although 35 would have been the official star count at the time of the 1864 presidential election, on November 8th, Nevada was pushed through to statehood on Halloween (October 31st) to become the 36th state. For this reason, flags with both 35 and 36 stars can be seen in the latter part of 1864, as well as flags that removed the Southern States, and 13 star flags to reflect the 13 original colonies and previous struggles for liberty. In the case of political campaign flags, specifically, star counts that pre-date the year in which the particular candidate ran for office are commonplace. In 1860, for example, campaign parade flags with 31 stars, advertising the campaign of Lincoln & Hamlin, are fewer in number than those with the proper count of 33 stars, but occur frequently enough to be no surprise whatsoever.

I have been afforded the great privilege to own about 45 Lincoln campaign flags, a number that accounts for most of those known to exist, both inside and outside museum collections. Among these are the five largest examples that I am aware to survive. The flag that is the subject of this narrative is an incredibly special one for several reasons. One of these lies in the fact that it was made for Lincoln’s second campaign. Because this occurred in 1864, during the war, it was a time of great scarcity of materials, but it was not only the time frame that mattered. The single most deciding factor of most presidential elections is whether or not the candidate is already serving in the nation's highest office. All other contributing factors aside, the fact that Lincoln was the incumbent was a huge advantage. As the election grew nearer, Union victories at the Confederate capital of Richmond and elsewhere solidified Lincolns second victory in Washington. Both this and the scarcity of fabric seem have sapped the fuel from the fire that drove the demand for campaign textiles. Time and resources for anything deemed less crucial, let alone frivolous, were redirected toward more important tasks. Whatever the specific combination of contributing factors was, flags made for the Lincoln & Johnson campaign, that have survived into the 21st century, represent about 25% of what survives today across both the 1860 and 1864 elections.

Two other important traits of this particular flag are construction and scale. Most campaign parade flags (a.k.a., hand-wavers) were printed on cotton or silk. Also known as hand-wavers, these generally measured 3 feet long or less on the fly. As a subset, campaign flags were notably smaller on average, generally measuring 16 inches or less on the fly. The larger they are, the more unusual they are, and, simultaneously, more desirable. An 8, 12, or 16-inch flag does not carry the same graphic impact as a 24 or 30-inch example, yet only a tiny fraction of presidential campaign parade flags were produced that were greater than two feet in length. The larger they are, the more unusual they are.

In stark contrast to their printed counterparts, flags of the 19th century with sewn construction were, on average, much larger. Sewn flags were commonly 8 feet on the fly or longer. A six-footer was considered small. Even Union infantry battle flags of the Civil War period, carried on foot, were 6 x 6.5‘ by way of U.S. Army regulations. Unlike the average flag of today, generally flown for patriot and decorative purposes, flags of the 19th century and prior served an important function as signals that needed to be clearly identified at a distance. Ships’ flags could be way larger and garrison flags were 45 feet on the fly. Even those flags displayed for decorative use only were generally 6 to 12 feet in length.

Pieced and sewn examples of political campaign flags, with individually sewn stripes and stars, are exceptionally rare—so much so that I have only seen a handful. These are typically less convenient to display in a modern indoor setting, and because their size is so despairingly different than their printed counterparts, large, political campaign flags with sewn construction have traditionally been categorized as somewhat esoteric among political flag collectors. Somewhat conspicuously absent in this subcategory of early American flags are small, sewn flags, with 19th century campaign advertising, that a collector can easily display. Due to both a desirable scale and visual impact, such an object could potentially become the most graphically powerful flag in a collection. Among those made for Lincoln’s two campaigns for the White House, a couple of these incredible flags actually survive. I am aware of just three, all of which I have had the humble privilege to own.

At just under 4 feet on the fly and 2 on the hoist, this elongated example is arguably tied for the best flag that exists with “Lincoln & Johnson” verbiage in the striped field. An incredible gem among surviving Lincoln flags, it is superior to any portrait flag that has been identified to 1864. In terms of size as a factor of desirability, the scale of this example is about as great as one could wish for, falling squarely into what I deem to be absolutely ideal, not only for political flag collectors, as the pillar of any collection, but for buyers of antique American flags in a much more general sense within the marketplace, great for over a mantle, behind a desk, etc.

Early flags with a long and narrow format, like this example, possess a two-fold benefit. One, it tends to be a graphically interesting quality that, from an artistic perspective, is easy to adore. Two, because height is usually the more critical of the two measurements in any indoor space that a potential buyer might consider, it can substantially impact the audience of those who might acquire it. Simply put, this flag will fit in many more places than the average 4-foot example. This fact plus a great design, plus rarity, plus serious historical interest, together yield an equation with exponential outcome.

Don’t be fooled by the location of the canton, that may seem backwards-facing when compared to modern depictions of the Stars & Stripes. It’s important to realize that, in early America, there was no backwards or forwards. That concept didn’t become part of the American consciousness until flag ethics began to emerge at the tail end of the 19th century, when veteran’s groups and patriotic organizations, such as the D.A.R., first began to attempt to define guidelines to treat the flag as a more sacred symbol. Gradual change, fueled by the patriotism of the Spanish American War (1898) and then WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-1918), culminated in the adoption of the first Flag Code in 1923. Prior to this time, as evidenced by early photographs, it was just as likely to see the flag with the canton on the right as on the left. If you think about this for a minute, it makes perfect sense, because if carried into battle, not only did it have to be seen from both sides, but the position of the canton would be determined by whichever side you were viewing it from, and which direction the wind was blowing.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The flag was hand-stitched to background of 100% cotton, black in color, that was washed and treated for color fastness. The mount was placed in a solid mahogany molding with black-painted surface and shadow box depth, two which a rippled profile molding, black with gold highlights was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: There is significant fading of the blue canton, accompanied by minor fading of the red stripes. There is moderate to significant soiling and staining. This was professionally and carefully cleaned by our staff, with water only. Minor, professional color restoration (reversible) was undertaken to further reduce the visibility of these specific areas. There are nicks of fabric loss and fraying along the hoist, accompanied by a tiny hole in the upper corner of the canton, and small tears at the very end of the last white stripe, all of which occur where the flag was once affixed to its original wooden staff. There are patched repairs near the center of the first red stripe, towards the fly end. There are tiny holes in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th red stripes, in the first 1/3 of the flag (as it is displayed, with the canton in the upper right). There is a small, patched repair in the red stripe below the canton, adjacent to a long, horizontal tear in the same stripe, and there is a significantly smaller tear in the last red stripe, below it, adjacent to the hoist. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The flag presents beautifully. The extreme desirability and rarity warrant any and all condition issues.
Video:
   
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1864
State/Affiliation: Kansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com


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