|39 STARS ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH GREAT FOLK QUALITIES, CONSISTING OF A JUMBLED CONFIGURATION SURROUNDING A LARGE, HALOED CENTER STAR, SET AGAINST A ROYAL BLUE CANTON, THAT RESTS ON A RED STRIPE (SOMETIMES TERMED THE "BLOOD STRIPE" PR THE "WAR STRIPE); PROBABLY MADE FOR THE 1876 CENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
|Frame Size (H x L):|
|Flag Size (H x L):||63.5" x 111"|
|Extremely rare, 39 star American national flag with pieced-and-sewn construction and extraordinary visual features. While its stars are arranged in rows, there is a huge center star embedded in the pattern. It is very rare for a lineal pattern to contain such an element, and this isn’t a common star, but rather one with a bold halo around its perimeter. Haloed center stars are seen on occasion in printed parade flags, where the feature is very desirable. I don’t ever recall seeing a haloed star on a pieced-and-sewn example, however, and the effect is certainly dynamic, especially in the case of this flag, which bears other striking features. One of these is the color of the canton itself, which is a saturated, royal blue. Another can be found in the scarlet red stripes, which are significantly more narrow than their white counterparts. Together with the blue color and the huge, haloed center star, these characteristics add an ample degree of folk quality to the overall design.
Also note how the blue canton rests on a red stripe, which is a scarce and highly desired trait. Some flag historians refer to this as the “blood stripe” or the “war stripe”, suggesting the flag was sometimes constructed in this manner when the nation was at war. There is also evidence, however, that the Navy used this design feature on at least some of its flags made during the mid-19th century. Unless the origin of this flag was Indian territory and the maker was affected by the Indian Wars, which followed the Civil War in 1866 and lasted until approximately 1890 (depending on the source), I expect that the maker, in this case, was simply was unaware of the proper placement. In any event, the war stripe feature is much-preferred by collectors and always contributes to a more unusual visual appearance.
39 star flags were anticipatory flags. This means that they were produced in anticipation of territories that were expected to become states. They were made at two times in American history. The first occurred in 1876, when we officially had 37 stars on the flag and some flag makers expected that 2 new states were soon to be added. The second occurred 13 years later, in 1889, when we officially had 38 stars, but some flag makers thought we would soon have another.
Neither of these events occurred as the makers of 39 star flags had planned. In 1876 only one state came (Colorado) and in 1889, two states were brought in on the same day (the Dakota Territory came in as two separate states). So in both cases, the 39 star flag remained unofficial and the 39 star count was never accurate for so much a day.
Despite the circumstances, 39 star parade flags—small flags printed on cotton or silk—were produced in great numbers. But 39 star sewn flags (those made with pieced-and-sewn construction for extended outdoor use) are so rare as to be practically non-existent. Somewhere between 5 and 10 pieced-and-sewn examples have surfaced during my experience with early American flags. Of these, all but two have benign star patterns and lack any sort of significant visual interest.
This is one of the two unusual examples. It was almost certainly made for the 1876 centennial of American independence, when many extraordinary designs, such as this one, were manufactured in response to the event. Theoretically, the flag may have been produced in either of the two periods in which the 39 star count was pursued, and the manner of construction of this particular example could reflect either period. While the lineal-stitch, treadle-sewn stars suggest 1889, this manner of application can be encountered as early as the Civil War (1861-65) and the star configuration strongly suggests an earlier date. Flags with dynamic star patterns were especially popular during and prior to the centennial, but are seldom seen afterward. In addition, a lot more flags were produced in 1876 than in 1889, due to patriotic motivations of the nation's birthday.
Construction: Made entirely of cotton. The stars are double-appliquéd, which means that they are applied to both sides of the canton. Both the appliqué work and the pieced of the stripes was accomplished with treadle stitching.
Mounting: The flag has not yet been mounted. We employ professional staff with masters degrees in textile conservation and can attend to all of your mounting and framing needs.
Condition: There is minor foxing and staining throughout, accompanied by an L-shaped tear with associated fabric loss in the upper, fly end corner of the top red stripe.
|Collector Level:||Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1876|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1889|
|War Association:||1866-1890 Indian Wars|
|Price:||By phone only, call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|