|13 star American national flag, made sometime between the nation's 100-year anniversary of independence and the year 1900. The stars are arranged are arranged in staggered lineal rows in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, which is the most common configuration found in 19th century flags with 13 stars. In most cases the 3-2-3-2-3 design can also be viewed as a diamond of stars, with a star in each corner and a star in the very center. It is of interest to note that the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern can also be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some feel could have been the design of the very first American flag and may identify a link between this star configuration and the British Union Jack. The pattern is often attributed--albeit erroneously in my opinion--to New Jersey Senator Francis Hopkinson, a member of the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, who is credited with having played the most significant role in the original design of the American national flag. Hopkinson's original drawings for the design of the flag have not survived and his other depictions of 13 star arrangements for other devices are inconsistent.
Why 13 Stars? 13 was the official count of stars on the first American flag, representing the original 13 colonies. According to the flag acts passed by Congress throughout history, any American national flag that has previously been official, remains so today. For this reason, any 13 star flag that otherwise meets the rudimentary guidelines of the original flag act, is acceptable as an official flag of the United States.
As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, two circumstances occurred. One, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag, and two, it became more difficult to view them from afar as individual objects.
Ship captains were keenly aware of this issue. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on ensigns made for small boats, because they wished the stars to be more easily discerned at a distance. The concept of "small" within Naval signals made during the 3rd quarter of the 19th century meant flags measuring 10 feet on the fly or less. Afterwards the scale of the largest small boat ensigns was reduced to approximately 6.5 feet or less. As time progressed, national flags in general, used in both private and public service, became smaller in scale. The Navy's use of the 13 star count on small boats officially ended in 1916 following an executive order of President Woodrow Wilson.
When small flags were produced, commercial flag-makers often applied the same logic as the Navy, selecting the 13 star count, rather than the full complement of stars, for the sake of ease and visibility. Measuring approximately 7.5 feet on the fly, this particular flag is unusually large for the period among surviving 13 star examples. Practically all commercially-made flags of this length, made during this era, would instead have a canton that contained the full complement of stars. It may have been made to celebrate the 1876 centennial, but could just as likely have been produced for patriotic use at some other point during the last quarter of the 19th century.
Construction: The flag is entirely treadle sewn with a wool canton and stripes, complimented by double-appliquéd cotton stars that are sewn with a lineal stitch. There is a canvas sailcloth binding along the hoist, through which a length of braided cotton cord has been passed and sewn into place with loops at the top and bottom. While the combination of these methods of stitching on the stripes and stars are most indicative of the brief period between 1890 and 1895, the overall feel and presentation of the flag, plus the style of hoist, the type of cord and the color of thread used in portions of its construction, suggest a sincere possibility of an earlier date. The careful hand-darning used to execute repairs also supports an earlier date.
Mounting: The flag has not yet been mounted. We employ professional staff with masters degrees in textile conservation and can attend to all of your mounting and framing needs.
Condition: There is minor mothing throughout, much of which has been repaired with hand-darning. There is minor to moderate staining throughout. A few minor separations in the seams were repaired. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.