Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  49 STARS ON A VINTAGE, HOMEMADE AMERICAN FLAG WITH ITS CANTON RESTING ON THE WAR STRIPE AND NUMEROUS REPAIRS FORM OBVIOUS LONG-TERM USE; REFLECTS THE ADDITION OF ALASKA IN 1959; OFFICIAL FOR JUST ONE YEAR

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 43" x 70.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 30.5" x 58.25"
Description....:
Many people don’t know that the 49 star flag was actually official for a period of one year. Alaska joined the Union as the 49th state on January 3rd, 1959. Because stars were officially added on Independence Day following a state’s addition, the 49 star flag became official on July 4th of that year. Although Hawaii gained statehood just 48 days later, on August 21st, the 50th star would not be officially added until July 4th, 1960.

This particular 49 star flag has some particularly interesting and unusual features. Chief among these are the fact that the flag was homemade at time when almost no flags were, and that the blue canton rests on a red stripe. When this condition exists, we say that they canton rests on the “war stripe” or the “blood stripe.” While rare, this has been suggested by some flag enthusiasts to have been incorporated when our nation was at war. In actuality, the placement was up to the maker. Until 1912, there was no official placement for the canton against the stiped field, nor official proportions, nor an official arrangement for the stars. Further, there was no specific number of points that the stars, themselves, needed to have, nor official shades of red and blue. So pre-1912, the vertical location of the canton wasn’t specified. Examples obviously made outside wartime illustrate that the placement was simply a deviation from what is normally encountered.

Post-1912, an Executive Order of then-President Howard Taft, set forth all of these considerations, though technically they only did so for the Department of the Government, meaning government use and the military.

Whatever the case may be with regard the legitimacy of the war stripe theory, or any other considerations, the placement of the canton on a red stripe does seem to occur most often in flags of the Civil War, as well as in the homemade flags of WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-1918). And in spite of all of this discussion thus far, 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 a compelling one. And since things tended to become more standardized as time passed, it is of great interest to encounter the feature here in a flag made between the Korean and Vietnam wars, in the mid-20th century.

Both the canton and the stripes of the flag are made of either cotton or a blended cotton fabric. These have been pieced and joined with machine stitching. The stars of the flag are made of plain weave cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a combination of hand and machine-stitching. Largely these were machine-sewn, or passed over with machine stitching after being hand-tacked. Some, however, have considerably more hand-stitching than others. In my experience the act of machine-stitching over hand-stitching, while it seems logical enough on the surface, is not something that I have ever actually encountered in early American flags, long after the original date of manufacture. Part of a seam perhaps, or a line of stitching running up the hoist, but entirely re-sewn? No. On those occasions where any significant amount is present, it has take place at the same time that the flag was initially made, as a result of a change in the decision to machine-sew versus hand-sew, or to do one thing on one side and the other on the reverse, or else to perform formal applique work on stars that were simply tacked into place, as a maker’s aid.

One of the endearing things about this flag, beyond its eccentricities as a homemade example, are the numerous repairs from extended use. Note the cotton patches at the fly end of the 1st-3rd, 5th, and 13th stripes. These not only add to the flag’s visual history, but likewise contribute to the legitimacy of its not only having been flown, but carefully attended to by its owner.

All-in-all, an atypical 49 star flag with interesting features, worthy of a collector’s wall.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert trained 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 colorfastness. The substantial, cove shaped molding has a textured surface, a rope style inner border, and a matte finish that is very dark brown in color, nearly black, with reddish undertones and highlights. To this a flat profile molding, with a surface like old gun metal, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is significant fading from extended use, accompanied by minor soiling throughout. There is modest soiling in the 3 stripes below the canton, and moderate of the same and the 4th. In addition to the afore mentioned losses and patches, there are tiny holes and staining near the end of the 9th, 11th, and 12th stripes. There is some unraveling of the stitching along the edges of the stars. 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: 49
Earliest Date of Origin: 1959
Latest Date of Origin: 1960
State/Affiliation: Alaska
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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