Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 74" x 136"
Flag Size (H x L): 72" x 124"
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.

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 admission. On November 2nd of that year, a surprise was lay in store for the makers of 39 star flags, when the territory arrived as two different states. This forever rendered 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 just three days hence, on November 11th.

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

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 (at least among printed examples, and a fair number of pieced-and-sewn examples are known). These reflect the four new states that arrived in that week-and-a-half, between November 2nd - 11th. For the next seven-eight months flag-makers seem to have favored this star count, producing many of them, 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 43 star flag became official on July 4th, but flag-makers basically skipped over the count entirely, because on July 10th, just 7 days after Idaho gained statehood, 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 add Wyoming as well.

The stars of this 41 star example are roughly configured in rows of 8-6-8-5-6-8, although the rows are far from linear and the stars appear in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and positions.

The flag is entirely treadle-sewn. The stripes and canton are both of wool bunting, while the stars are of cotton muslin and double-appliqued. There is a canvas sleeve that originally had 3 brass grommets, one of which is now absent.

Condition: The overall condition is excellent for a 19th century flag of this size. The flag was obviously flown for at least a short period of time and exhibits some wear as evidence. Separations of the sleeve from the body of the flag have occurred both the top and bottom, which are the normal weak points, and also in the center, adjacent to the grommet. At the bottom there is a very small section of the sleeve missing, along with the grommet that would have been originally attached to it. There is a tear in the 5th red stripe neat the hoist end, and there is minor mothing throughout.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn 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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