Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 37.5" x 47.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 25.5" x 37"
13 star American national flag in a style known to have been made by Charles Chapman Fuller of Worcester, Massachusetts. The medallion configuration of stars is both fantastic and rare. Only a tiny handful of 13 star flags exist in this highly unusual pattern, which consists of a wreath of 10 stars surrounding a 3 stars in the center. With the exception of the 13 star, perfect circle design attributed to Betsy Ross, and a similar configuration, called the “3rd Maryland” pattern, which has a wreath of stars surrounding a single center star, almost all other medallion designs in all star counts have a flanking star in each corner of the blue canton, outside the wreath(s). Circular patterns without flanking corner stars tend to be more visually appealing than their counterparts. There is something about the lack of a star in each corner that gives a more pleasing symmetry and movement to the resulting constellation.

Among 13 star flags, approximately 10-15 flags are known in variations of the 10 star wreath with 3 center stars. The most important of these is one of the earliest of all American flags known to exist. Known as the “Shaw flag”, it hangs prominently over the mantle in a front parlor of the Shaw Mansion in downtown New London, Connecticut and is among the collections of the New London Historical Society. The Shaw flag likely dates to the 18th century, proving that this unusual star pattern has very early roots.

Three other flags reside in private collections. One of these, measuring about 50 x 90 inches, dates to around the Civil War period (1861-65). Another, measuring approximately 57 x 92 inches, dates between 1876 and 1900 and was sold at Sotheby's in 2002. And the third, probably dating to 1876, was the very first flag to enter the collection of noted flag collector Richard Pierce, gifted to him by his wife, Barbara on their 13th wedding anniversary. Measuring 13" x 20", it could be argued that the pattern is instead a beehive with 3 stars in the center, or a double-arch, as opposed to a wreath with a triangle of 3 stars. The Pierce flag is the only documented example in a reference text; it appears in "The Stars & The Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit" by Richard Pierce (J. Richard Pierce, LLC, 2005), p. 25.

The remaining few currently known, most of which I have had the privilege to have handled, are all in the style and the same basic size of the flag in question here, and all can be identified to C.C. Fuller, who was listed as a “Costumer, Manufacturer of Banners, Flags, Regalias, Badges…Decorations for Halls, Churches, Military Balls”. Later known as “Fuller Regalia & Costume Company”, the firm was located at 5 Pleasant St. on the corner of Main Street, in Worcester. Although there is no maker’s mark on this particular flag, one at least was stenciled along the hoist with the following text: “C.C. Fuller, Worcester, Mass.”. This allowed the group to be attributed to a known manufacturer, which is rare among surviving 19th century examples because flags of this decade were seldom marked. Fewer than five 19th century flags out of one hundred can be identified to a specific maker.

Another peculiar feature of the Fuller flags, common to all of them, is a vertical orientation of the canton. On each flag, the canton is taller than it is long. Some are even more exaggerated than the rest. While this particular canton is nearer to square, it still conforms to this peculiar characteristic. Tall, narrow cantons are very uncommon among commercially manufactured, wool bunting flags. The design is reminiscent of Civil War period, military issue battle flags and lends a nice graphic quality to their visual impact.

The canton and stripes of the flag are treadle-sewn of wool bunting. The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) by machine with a zigzag stitch. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two brass grommets.

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.

While this general variety of small scale 13 star flags were produced for approximately 35 years, this particular example was probably made sometime between 1890 and 1900. Earlier examples tend to have crude features and those with unusual star patterns tend to date to the earliest part of this date window.

Mounting: The flag has been stitched to 100% natural fabrics on every seam and throughout the star field for support. Fabric of similar coloration was selected for masking purposes. Then flag was then hand-sewn to background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that 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 flag was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is minor soiling throughout, accompanied by various losses from obvious use, the most significant of which occur at the fly end. Numerous darning repairs were made during the flag's course of use to stabilize the losses. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. In addition, the rarity of this star pattern warrants practically any condition.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1900
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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