Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 32" x 41"
Flag Size (H x L): 21" x 30.25" x 21"

Like the British Royal Navy, American vessels flew three flags. When at anchor or moored, the jack is flown at the bow (front), the national flag or "ensign" is flown at the stern (back), and the commission pennant is flown from the main mast. When under way, the Jack is furled and the ensign may be kept in place or shifted to a gaff if the ship is so equipped.

The American Navy jack is a blue flag with a field of white stars. The design is the mirror image of the canton of an American national flag. In scale, the jack was meant to be the same size as the canton of the corresponding Stars & Stripes ensign with which it was flown.

Made by the Annin Company in New York City between 1867 and 1876, this example has 37 stars, arranged in justified a rows in counts of 7-8-7-8-7, each oriented so that one point is directed upwards. The flag is entirely hand-sewn. The field is made of wool bunting, which is typical for maritime use. Due to the limited width of this type of fabric, it was pieced in two sections. The stars are made of cotton and single-appliquéd, meaning that they were applied to one side of the flag (in this case the obverse), then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over and under-hemmed, so that one appliquéd star could be viewed on both sides. While some flag experts have suggested that this method was a means of conserving fabric, since the maker didn’t have to sew a star to both sides, others suggest that the real purpose was to make the flag lighter in weight. I believe that it probably was intended to serve both functions.

I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, both because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitchery and because with two rows of stitching instead of one, they naturally appear earlier and more hand-made than their double-appliquéd counterparts. This method of construction appeals to connoisseurs of early American textiles, who appreciate the texture and homemade qualities of single-appliqué work. Although on rare occasion the technique can be seen on flags made on as late as the turn of the 20th century, it tends to be most prevalent in flags of the Civil War (1861-65) and prior, and is the method of choice on the very earliest American flags with appliquéd stars. Note the careful use of two colors of thread, chosen accordingly with the colors of the adjacent fabric, and the extremely fine hand stitching.

A narrow sleeve of coarse linen binds the hoist, on which there are two tiny brass grommets. Along this is a black inked stencil that reads “E. ANNIN, N.Y.,” followed by “2X” which denotes the size of the flag as measuring two feet on the fly. Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. The company was founded in the 1830's, incorporated in 1847, and was located in New York until the 1960’s, when it moved to Verona, New Jersey.

The 37th state, Nebraska, joined the Union on March 1st, 1867. The 37 star flag was official from that year until 1877, although it generally fell out of use in 1876 with the addition of Colorado. The 37 star-count is scarce in comparison to the flags that immediately preceded and followed it. This is due primarily to the lack of major patriotic events during the period they were generally used, which followed the Civil War yet preceded the 100-year anniversary of our nation's independence. While the 37 star flag was still official in 1876, it was well known that at least one more state would be joining the Union that year. This caused flag makers to cease production in favor of 38 and 39 star flags, along with 13 star examples to commemorate the original 13 colonies.

Further Comments on Terminology & Use:
While the technical name for this type of flag was a "union jack," the confusing verbiage, being the same as the nickname of the most recognizable British flag, has resulted in a common shortening of the term to simply "the jack". Interestingly enough, the British Union Jack is not the proper name for that signal either. The design commonly called the "Union Jack" is actually the "Union Flag," though practically no one uses or is even familiar with the term. The only time that it can be properly called the "Union Jack" is when it is, in fact, flown as the jack on a British Navy ship. Because the British fly various national flags: the white ensign (Royal Navy), blue ensign (non-navy ships in public service), and red ensign (merchant ships), each of which is composed of a wide field the corresponding color, with the Union Flag design as its canton, the use of the Union Flag as the jack on Royal Navy ships employs the same logic as using the blue field with stars, without the red and white striped field, as the American jack.

Early American ship paintings suggest that the various flags and pennants common to U.S. Navy ships, were sometimes flown on non-navy vessels. One may occasionally observe them in portraits of merchant ships and yachts, dressed with a complement of colorful ensigns and signals for special occasions. Because ship paintings were often commissioned, with both painter and purchaser wishing to display the craft in the most splendid manner possible, flags may be present in these images that were not regularly flown or even appropriate in the chosen setting. The same can be true in the sketched and painted views of U.S. Navy ships.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% natural fabrics throughout for support. It was then hand-stitched to a background of cotton twill, ivory in color. 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 to moderate loss in the blue wool bunting, with the most affected area being the bottom, fly-end corner, followed by the upper corner on that end and the bottom of the hoist, adjacent to the binding. There are minor to moderate losses in the white wool bunting of the stars. There is moderate soiling in one star and very limited, minor soiling elsewhere. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 37
Earliest Date of Origin: 1867
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Nebraska
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: Inquire

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