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  35 STARS, ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN AND WITH ATTRACTIVE EARLY FEATURES, CIVIL WAR PERIOD, WEST VIRGINIA STATEHOOD, 1863-1865, SIGNED "J.W. BRADLEY"

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 61" x 79.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 50" x 68.5"
Description....:
35 star American national flag of the Civil War period, entirely hand-sewn and with great early features that provide for strong graphic appeal. West Virginia was admitted into the Union as the 35th state on June 20th, 1863, a few days before the battle of Gettysburg. The 35th star was officially added on July 4th, and the flag was used during the closing years of the war. Production would have generally ceased one year later, however, with the addition of the 36th state.

The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and 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 one star could be viewed on both sides. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but even more so because they are usually more visually intriguing. That is certainly the case here, where both the sewing itself and stretching of the fabrics over time has resulted in stars that have excellent folk qualities. Irregular in shape, they have pointy arms that bend this way and that and their appearance adds a degree of visual movement to the presentation. Because two rows of hand-stitching are apparent on single-appliquéd flags, the stitching is more apparent, which emphasizes its hand-sewn construction and is more endearing. It is this sort of construction that most often appeals to connoisseurs of early American textiles.

Note how the stars are primarily upside-down in orientation on their vertical axis, with two points up instead of one. No one knows if this positioning bore any particular meaning. It may just be that the maker of the flag did not consider any one position to be right-side-up. But whatever the case may be, this feature is unusual to the eye and is appealing to flag collectors.

The stripes and canton of the flag are made of wool bunting, pieced and sewn by hand. The canton is pieced from two lengths of blue fabric because blue wool bunting was only available in a maximum width of eighteen inches. The rectangular patches at each corner are original to the flag's construction. These are called gussets and were added for support at the points where the flag received the most stress when it was flown. There is a coarse linen binding along the hoist with two hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommets, one each at the extreme top and bottom.

The name "J.W. Bradley." is embroidered along the hoist binding, near the top, on the obverse side with light brown thread. Because it was so close in color to the hoist itself, this was later traced over with a dip pen and the name was also inscribed on the reverse with a dip pen. It was common to mark flags in this manner during the 19th century to indicate ownership. Because there are literally hundreds of men who took part in the war that potentially bore these initials (middle names or initials were quite often excluded in records), it is nearly impossible to make an attribution. Even the list of officers that could potentially match is a long one. While of little value in monetary terms, the presence of the name is an interesting and positive feature.

The shape and size of the flag, rather square in profile, is appropriate for ground use. Military production Civil War infantry battle flags were virtually square, measuring approximately 6 x 6.5 feet. At just over 4 by just under 6 feet, this is significantly less square and smaller, but readily lacks the elongated form of flags flown from ships and structures. Probably made by a commercial flag-maker, its history is unknown, but it could have been given to a Civil War regiment to replace a lost or damaged colors. Whatever the case may be, it is a beautiful Civil War example with great presence.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% natural fabrics throughout for support. The flag was then hand-sewn to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, which was washed to remove 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 a small hole in the first white stripe. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind the flag for masking purposes. There are tears with associated loss in 4 of the stars, accompanied by very minor holes in others. There is minor fabric loss at the top and bottom of the hoist binding, adjacent to the grommets, caused by obvious use. There are a number of rust stains along the hoist binding, caused by metal tacks that would have once helped to affix the flag to a wooden staff and there is more minor foxing and staining elsewhere throughout. 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: 35
Earliest Date of Origin: 1863
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
State/Affiliation: West Virginia
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
 

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