Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 34.5" x 47"
Flag Size (H x L): 25" x 35.25"
This 13 star antique American flag is of a type made during the last decade of the 19th century through the first quarter of the 20th. The stars are arranged in a medallion configuration, with a single, center star and four flanking corner stars. Note how the center star is just a hair larger than those about it, and how it is just slightly different in shape, with slightly wider arms. Oriented with one point facing upward, note how it punctuates the design.

Most 13-star, flags of this era 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. The pattern had become popular during the centennial of American independence and remained so through the 1920's.

While these small scale flags were produced for approximately 35 years, this particular example was probably made during the last decade of the 19th century, as evidence by the manner in which the star are stitched.

Why 13 Stars?
As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit their full complement on a small flag. The stars would, by necessity, have to become smaller, which made it more and more difficult to view them from a distance as individual objects. The fear was that too many stars would become one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas.

The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on its small-scale flags for precisely this reason. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states.

For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3 to 4 feet in length before the 1890's. There are exceptions to this rule, but until this time, the smallest sewn flags were approximately 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 3 and 4-foot flags for the first time in large quantities. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, they 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 flag remain official national flags of the United States of America.

The 13 star count has been used throughout our nation's history for a variety of other purposes. 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 by treadle machine. The cotton stars are treadle-sewn with a lineal stitch and double-appliquéd (applied to both sides of the flag). There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two white metal grommets. The word "Navy" is stamped along the hoist, followed by the numerals "2" and "3" with a, 8-pointed star in-between that is shaped like the rowel of a spur with a simulated, pierced hole in the center. The latter means "2x3," indicating size in feet. The word "Navy" does not mean that this is a Navy flag, but rather is a brand name used by the maker to indicate the grade of bunting. It may be that this is the type of bunting that was used to fulfill U.S. Navy contracts. The stamp is extremely light and is difficult to see. The star would likely aid in identification of the maker, but it's not one that I have seen often and I cannot presently identify it. Most makers of this period and prior did not sign their flags.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% natural fabrics for support on every seam and throughout the star field. Fabric of similar coloration was chosen, both to strengthen the flag's color against the black ground and for masking purposes. The flag 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 plexiglass.

Condition: The flag was certainly flown for a period of time, as evidenced by minor fabric loss at the fly end along the top stripe. There is minor bleaching and bleeding in the first 9 stripes beyond the center, toward the fly end. There is extremely minor soiling in limited areas. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1899
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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