|13 STARS ARRANGED IN A MEDALLION PATTERN ON A SMALL-SCALE FLAG OF THE 1895-1926 ERA:
13 star flag of the type made from roughly the last decade of the 19th century through the first quarter of the 20th century. The stars are arranged in a medallion configuration, with a single, center star and four flanking corner stars. Most 13-star, flags of this period have a less-desirable, staggered row design with stars arranged in counts of 3-2-3-2-3. Medallion patterns, like this one, seem to comprise about 20-25% of such flags that were produced during this era.
Why 13 Stars? 13 star flags have been continuously produced throughout our nation's history for purposes both patriotic and utilitarian. This was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the 13 colonies, so it was appropriate for any flag made in conjunction with celebrations or notions of American independence. 13 star flags were displayed at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1825-26, the celebration of the nation's centennial in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians in political campaigning for the same reason.
13 star flags were flown by American ships both private and federal. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on the ensigns made for small boats, because they wished the stars to be easily discerned at a distance. As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, two circumstances occurred. One, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag and two, it became more difficult to view them from afar as individual objects.
The same logic was adopted in the private marketplace. For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3-4 feet in length that bore the full star count until well into the 20th century. There are exceptions to this rule, but until this time, the smallest sewn flags were between approximately 5 and 6 feet on the fly. The primary use had long been more utilitarian than decorative, and flags needed to be large to be effective as signals. But private use grew with the passage of time, which led to the need for long-term use flags of more manageable scale.
Beginning around 1890, flag-makers began to produce small flags for the first time in large quantities. Most measured approximately 2 x 3 feet (like this example) or 2.5 x 4 feet, though there was certainly variation. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, flag-makers chose the 13 star count rather than the full complement of stars for sake of ease and visibility. Any flag that has previously been official, remains so according to the flag acts, so 13 star flags were and still remain official today.
The 13 star count has been used throughout our nation's history for a variety of purposes. In addition to its use on small commercial flags and by the U.S. Navy, 13 star flags were hoisted at patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1825-26, the celebration of the nation's centennial in 1876, and the Sesquicentennial in 1926, as well as for annual celebrations of Independence Day. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty, and were used by 19th century politicians in political campaigning. The use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding an fouled anchor, which allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs between 1848 and 1980, persists today without an official purpose.
Construction: The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with machine stitching. The stars are made of cotton and double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag machine stitch. There is a heavy twill cotton binding along the hoist with two brass grommets, along which there are ink-stamps that read "Standard" to indicate the grade of wool bunting as identified by the maker, followed by "2x3"to indicate size in feet. There is also a presentation inscription that reads: “From James Gibson” in black ink, followed by “To G. Perkins” in blue. Although the identities of these two men remains unknown, recorded ownership of this nature is a nice accompaniment to any historical object.
Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support on every seam and throughout the star field. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, which was washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas.
Condition: There is very minor soiling and there is very minor fabric loss throughout. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.