Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 26" x 34.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 15.75" x 24.5"
Numerous flags appeared with unofficial star counts in early America, produced by flag-makers in anticipation of the addition of more states. The 41 star flag is one such example. Just a tiny handful flags in this star count are known and they are among the most rare of the 19th century. To understand why, one may turn back the clock to 1867 and examine flag production from that year until the addition of the 44th state, in 1890.

After the Flag Act of 1818, the official “flag year” began every July 4th. So on Independence Day, all states having been added to the Union over the previous year were officially given a star. Makers of flags, however, did not wait for July 4th and official star counts. Flag-making was a competitive industry and many manufacturers added stars before new states were actually added, creating incentive for consumers to buy new flags and increase sales.

In 1867, Nebraska joined the Union as the 37th state. The 37 star flag became official on July 4th of that year and remained so until July 3rd, 1877. More than a year earlier, in the early part of 1876, flag makers were anticipating the addition of either one or two new states. Many began producing 38 and 39 star flags to reflect the admission of Colorado, which did, in fact, gain statehood on August 1st of that year, and the Dakota Territory, which did not until years later. It is for this reason that the 38 and 39 star counts are most commonly encountered on flags and related objects produced for the Centennial International Exhibition. This six-month long, World's Fair event, held in Philadelphia, served as the nucleus for celebrations of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence, which took place in that year.

In 1876, the 37 star flag was official, but on August 1st we received our 38th state. Many flag-makers abandoned the 37 star flag when production began for the Centennial International Exposition, a six-month long World's Fair, held that year in Philadelphia, as the first of event of its kind on American soil. This served as the nucleus for celebrations of our 100-year anniversary of independence from Britain. In that year, 38 stars was a common choice, but other flag-makers actually skipped past 38 all-together, choosing to instead produce 39 star flags, anticipating the addition of the Dakota Territory as one state.

Seeing that Dakota wasn't coming, production after 1876 seems to have reverted to the 38 star count. Then, in 1889, thirteen years later, 39 star flags were once again manufactured with the anticipation of Dakota's statehood. On November 2nd of that year, a surprise lay in store for the makers of 39 star flags, when the Dakotas arrived as two separate states, forever rendering 39 star flags both inaccurate and unofficial. Just a few days later, on November 8th, Montana entered the Union as the 41st state, followed by Washington State as number 42 on November 11th, just 3 days hence.

40 star flags were made in limited quantity, reflecting the Dakotas’ entry. This count is scarce, but is not exceptionally rare. Perhaps this is because some flag-makers anticipated the number correctly.

41 star flags, by contrast, are among the rarest that exist in 19th century America. Accurate for just 3 days, an increase ending in a count of 41 on American national flags seems to not have been predicted.

By stark contrast, flags with the 42 star count are common. These reflect the four new states that arrived in that week-and-a-half period between November 2nd - 11th. For the next seven to eight months, flag-makers seem to have favored this star count, producing many of them, especially with regard to printed flags, probably with great enthusiasm and with fairly good reason. At this point in American history, 13 years was a very long time with no new states.

Then, on July, 3rd, 1890, just one day before the 42 star flag would have become official, Idaho snuck in as the 43rd state. This rendered the 42 star flag forever unofficial.

The following day, the count of stars on the American national flag was officially increased to 43. In spite of this fact, flag-makers basically skipped past the 43 star flag entirely, because on July 10th, just 7 days later, Wyoming was admitted. Practically all flag-makers seem to have predicted this and 43 star flags, while official for one year, were overlooked in favor of those with a count of 44 to include Wyoming as well.

Even though the windows in which some of these stars counts were accurate are small, celebrations would have taken place in the respective states, upon their addition. Related festivities would also have been held in the nation’s capital, and potentially elsewhere throughout America. In other words, while some 41 star flags may have been produced in anticipation of Montana's addition, others may have been made expressly for these events held at the actual time of its entry. Whatever the purpose, 41 star flags are rare.

Within the category of printed parade flags (a.k.a. hand-wavers), there is but one known style. Printed on plain weave cotton, the stars are configured in staggered rows of 5-4-5-4-5-4-5-4-5. It is extremely unusual to have so many rows on a 19th century American national flag in any star count, in any variety. For some reason, flag makers generally preferred fewer rows containing more stars. This particular style comes in two different sizes, of which this is the larger. Approximately 20 or fewer examples survive in this scale. Within the smaller variety, there is but one single example. I was privileged to acquire and sell the latter years ago.

Provenance: Ex-Collection of Jim Ring. Ex-collection Richard Pierce, illustrated in his book: "The Stars & The Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit," (2005, J. Richard Pierce), p. 19. Sold to both collectors above by Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques. Ex-With All Due Ceremony.

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. The 3-part frame is made of wood, yet has a distressed metallic finish that presents like old gunmetal and rusted iron. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is a tiny hole in the canton in the upper, fly end corner, almost not worthy of mention, but there are no significant condition issues.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 41
Earliest Date of Origin: 1889
Latest Date of Origin: 1889
State/Affiliation: Montana
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD

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