Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 35" x 49.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 22.25" x 36.5"

31 star American national flag, printed on cotton, with a medallion configuration of stars. This consists of a large center star, surrounded by two consecutive wreaths of small stars, with a slightly larger flanking star in each corner of the canton. California became the 31st state in 1850, ushered in on the heels of the 1849 Gold Rush.

Note how the center star isn't solid, but is silhouetted by a white line that flag collectors have termed a "halo". The bold style of this star places it among the most beautiful 19th century designs. Although the name of the company that produced these flags with a haloed center star is not known, it appears to have made five other star counts using this style: 30, 34, 35, 36 and 42. Two varieties also exist with 13 stars. One dates to 1856 and was made for the presidential campaign of James Buchanan. Another style dates to the 1876 centennial era and all of its 13 stars have halos. Because printed parade flags did not exist before the 26-star era (1837-1845), and because few private individuals flew the Stars & Stripes before the Civil War (1861-1865), this particular maker would have been among the first to produce printed flags.

Also note the unusual light blue coloration of the canton. There were no official qualifications until 1912, so a wide spectrum of hues appear in early examples. Attractive colors such as these are not the norm and so are particularly desired. The orange coloration of the stripes results from the use of cochineal to create the red pigment and is typical of many block-printed flags made during and prior to the 1876 centennial of our nation's independence.

The 31 star flag was official from 1851-1858. Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. Private use of the national flag rose swiftly during the patriotism that surrounded the Civil War, then exploded in 1876.

Even the military did not use the flag in a manner that most people might think. Most people would be surprised to learn that the infantry wasn't authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until the 1830's, and even then did not often exercise the right, because it was neither required nor customary. The primary purpose before the Mexican War (1846-48) was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark garrisons and government buildings, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment and a federal standard, which was a blue flag with an eagle serving as its central device under an arch of stars.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton twill, black in color. The background fabric was washed to remove excess dye, and an acid-free agent was added to the wash to set the dye. The flag was then placed in a contemporary, black painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is moderate to significant fading, foxing and staining throughout. There are moderate losses along the white portion of the fabric at the top of the hoist end and along the fly end. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind some of the areas for masking purposes. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Due to the great rarity and desirability of pre-Civil War examples, almost any condition is warranted.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 31
Earliest Date of Origin: 1850
Latest Date of Origin: 1858
State/Affiliation: California
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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