Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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  45 HAND-SEWN, SINGLE-APPLIQUED STARS ON THE SMALLEST PIECED-AND-SEWN, COMMERCIALLY-MANUFACTURED, WOOL FLAG THAT I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED IN THIS PERIOD, 1896-1908 (UTAH STATEHOOD), MADE AND SIGNED BY THE ANNIN COMPANY IN NEW YORK CITY

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 35.5" x 48"
Flag Size (H x L): 24.25" x 37"
Description....:
45 star American national flag with some wonderful features for a collector. Chief among these is its tiny size among flags with pieced-and-sewn construction. Measuring just 24 x 37 inches, this flag actually holds the rare distinction of being the smallest of commercial manufacture in this star count that I have ever encountered and I have owned only two others in this general scale.

In the 19th century, flags with sewn construction (as opposed to printed) were typically eight feet long or larger. This is because they were important in their function as signals, meaning that they needed to be seen and recognized from great distance. A small flag was six feet in length and production of flags smaller than this was extremely limited. The smaller they get the more unusual they are.

Even infantry battle flags were approximately six-by-six-and-one-half feet, or about the size of an average quilt of the same period. As time passed, circumstances changed and sewn flags began to find more of a decorative purpose. In the 1890’s it became popular for flag manufacturers to produce smaller flags, but almost all chose to make them with 13 stars, mimicking the U.S. Navy, which had long been flying 13 star flags on small boats. This count was chosen so that the stars could be more easily viewed at a distance as individual objects. These were the first commercial flags, mass-produced for non-military purpose, that commonly measured just two-by-three-feet. Production of these flags continued into the 1920’s. During the same period, however, flags were seldom ever produced with pieced-and-sewn construction, with the full complement of stars that was representative of the current number of states. This was especially true of flags in the 44, 45, and 46 star counts, in lengths of less than 5 feet. 4-foot examples are rare. Those measuring just three feet are all but non-existent. It was not until well into the 48 star period, probably around the time of the 1926 sesquicentennial (our nation's 150th anniversary of independence), that flags in the full star count, with sewn construction, were more regularly made in such a tiny size.

Another excellent feature is the manner in which its stars were applied. During the 45-star period, (1896-1907), stars were seldom hand-sewn. While not precisely rare, hand-sewn stars are present on perhaps one-in-30 examples. The stars of this flag are not only hand-sewn, but single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over and under-hemmed, so that each could be viewed on both sides of the flag. When executed properly, single-appliquéd stars serve as evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitchery. One a wool flag of such small proportion, keeping the loosely woven wool from unraveling during the task took remarkable skill. While some flag enthusiasts have pointed to this construction method as a way of conserving fabric, others suggest that the real purpose was to make the flag lighter in weight. I believe it to have perhaps been a function of both of these endeavors. Whatever the case may be, I always find single-appliquéd stars more intriguing because they are visually interesting. Two rows of hand-stitching, coupled with the contraction and expansion of the respective wool and cotton fabrics result in stars with excellent folk qualities. Note how these particular stars have somewhat fatter than usual profiles and arms that bend slightly in various directions.

The flag was made by the Annin Company in New York and is signed along the hoist by means of a black stencil that reads: "ANNIN & CO. 3XX". In operation as early as the 1830’s, and incorporated in 1847, Annin is the oldest U.S. flag maker that is still in business today. While the company made thousands of flags during the 19th century, surprisingly few examples exist from that era. Annin was one of the only commercial flag-makers that was still hand-sewing stars in the mid-1890’s and afterward, possibly as late as 1910, when almost all flag-makers were sewing stars by machine. Further, the manner in which they applied them, by single appliqué, is a trait more common to flags made during the Civil War period (1861-65) and earlier, than it is to flags made post-war. By the 1890’s the method was practically archaic in the flag trade.

The stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been joined by machine stitching. There is a heavy canvas binding along the hoist with two brass grommets. This portion of the construction is typical of the era in which the flag was made. A length of early hemp rope, formerly used to attach the flag to a staff or a line, is threaded through the top grommet.

Utah became the 45th state in 1896. It had been attempting to gain statehood for many years, but remained a territory, primarily due to the fact that the Mormon Church and Utah authorities continued to be openly tolerant of polygamy. In 1890, Mormon Church President Wilford Woodruff published a manifesto that denounced the contract of “any marriages forbidden by the law of the land”. This gave way to Utah’s 1896 acceptance. The 45 star flag was generally used from that year until 1907, when Oklahoma joined the Union. Due to the Spanish-American War (1898) and Teddy Roosevelt’s famous world tour of the “White Fleet” (launched in 1907), this was an extremely patriotic time.

The combination of the flag's tiny size, wonderfully hand-sewn stars with great folk attributes, and the signature of a New York maker result in an excellent example of the period.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% natural fabrics on every seam and throughout the star field for support. It was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton, 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 acrylic.

Condition: There is minor mothing throughout, accompanied by moderate mothing in the 4th red stripe. There is very minor unraveling of the stitching at the extreme top corner at the fly end. 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: 45
Earliest Date of Origin: 1896
Latest Date of Origin: 1907
State/Affiliation: Utah
War Association: 1898 Spanish American War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
 

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