Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 20.5" x 23.25
Flag Size (H x L): 12" x 14.5"
Rare and exceptional, 31 star American parade flag, printed on glazed cotton, made for the 1856 presidential campaign of John Frémont and William Dayton. Frémont holds the important distinction of being the nation’s first Republican presidential candidate. The Republican Party had been formed in that very same year and campaigned on an anti-slavery ticket. It was an outgrowth of the Whig party, the Liberty Party, and the “Free-Soilers”, which simultaneously evaporated, plus a portion of the American Party (the “Know-Nothings”) who more vigorously opposed slavery. Former members of all these groups united in a common goal to impede the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the spread of slavery. "Frémont & Freedom" was the campaign slogan.

Only two styles of Frémont flags are pictured in "Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth, 1775 to the Present", by Herbert Ridgeway Collins, (1979, Smithsonian Press). Formerly in the collection of James Barnes, this flag is the plate example from the book and is pictured as item 259 on page 145.

Besides the obvious importance of its ties to the very roots of the Republican Party, the flag is important for other reasons. One is the dynamic configuration of stars, which are arranged in a variation of what is known as the “Great Star” configuration (a large star made out of smaller stars). Another is the attractive lettering that was used to boldly print the candidates' names in black on a 45 degree angle against the stripe field. Also important is the pre-Civil War date, which makes the flag rare across surviving examples, and the relationship of both the 31 star count and John Frémont to the state of California.

Because there was no official star design until 1912, the pattern was left up to the whims of the flag-maker. Among flag collectors, the Great Star configuration is generally considered to be the Rolls Royce of 19th century geometric patterns. It probably came about shortly before 1818, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 Naval hero, help to create a new design that would become the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. The primary concern of ship captains was that the signal be easily recognized on the open seas. Reid’s concept of placing all the stars in a star-shaped pattern would have kept the constellation in roughly the same format as the number of states grew and more stars were added, in a distinct design that could be quickly identified at a distance. Though his proposal was rejected by President Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in this manner, the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it. Its scarcity today, along with its beauty, have driven its desirability among collectors.

Great Star configurations take on many forms. Note how the very center of this particular design is comprised of a pentagon of stars surrounding a single center star. This is surrounded by a wreath of stars arranged in 5 groups of 2, from which the points of the Great Star extend. Unlike some Great Star patterns, note how this one has concave, semi-circular valleys and very pointy arms. It also has a additional star between each arm, just beyond their outermost point of intersection.

John Frémont played an interesting role in the settling of California, which was the 31st state. California, entered the Union on September 9th, 1850, immediately following the Gold Rush. The 31 star flag was official from 1851-1858. Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century. This is partly because, prior to the Centennial, our flag was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags did not often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. Use of the Stars and Stripes for these purposes began to rise swiftly during the patriotism that surrounded the Civil War, but civilian use of the flag was not widespread until 1876.

  Even the military did not use the flag in a manner that most people might think. The primary purpose before the Civil War was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark some garrisons, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment and a Federal standard. Most people would be surprised to learn that U.S. land forces were not authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until the late 1830's (artillery) and the early 1840's (Infantry), and even then did not often exercise the right, because it was neither required nor customary. It was not until the Civil War took place that most U.S. ground forces even bothered to carry the national flag.

John Charles Frémont was born in Savannah, GA on January 21st, 1813. The illegitimate son of a poor, French refugee and a prominent Virginia society woman, Frémont improved his social status by marrying Jessie Benton, daughter of Thomas Hart Benton, a leading Democrat and slave-owner. Nicknamed “The Pathfinder”, Frémont led expeditions in the west both prior to and during the Mexican War. He is credited as being the first Caucasian to view Lake Tahoe, and he made the determination that the Great Basin didn’t open to the sea. During the Mexican War, he led a unit into California to defeat General Pico. In doing so, Frémont’s men captured the Presidio and the surrounding area, and though Pico was in Los Angeles at the time, Pico realized that the war was effectively over and later surrendered.

Frémont proclaimed himself Military Governor of California in 1847, only to be brought up on charges of treason by a higher ranking Army officer, but pardoned by President Polk because of his contributions to the war. Frémont went on to become one of California’s first two senators, and he became rich in the Gold Rush. In 1856, Frémont’s popularity and hard stance on the abolition of slavery led him to become the youngest man to ever run for the White House, and the first to run on an anti-slavery ticket. He was defeated by James Buchanan because the slave states threatened to secede and the nation as a whole was not ready for the great separation that would follow.

Lincoln appointed Frémont major general in May of 1861 and placed him in charge of the Department of the West. He personally fronted a good deal of money for the war effort, but was removed from duty for insubordination due to his freewheeling approach to the seizure of secessionist property and the emancipation of slaves. Republican allies supporting Frémont caused Lincoln to reconsider and reappointed him in 1862 to the newly formed Mountain Department, but Frémont resigned a couple of months later because of further differences. He was generally unsuccessful as a military leader, suffering several major defeats. He did begin another presidential bid in 1864, siding with the Radical Republicans, but eventually he withdrew and supported Lincoln. Frémont became territorial governor of Arizona in the 1870’s and died in New York City in 1890.

William Lewis Dayton was born in Basking Ridge, New Jersey in 1807. Dayton was an attorney and Judge who became a United States Senator representing New Jersey, serving the Whig Party in Congress from 1841 – 1851. He returned to law before being selected as the first Republican vice presidential candidate in 1856. After defeat, he served as New Jersey’s Attorney General from 1857-1861. He was then appointed Minister to France, a post he served until his death in 1864.

Mounting: The gilded American molding dates to the period between 1820 and the 1850. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric was washed to remove excess pigment. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the pigment and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 31
Earliest Date of Origin: 1856
Latest Date of Origin: 1856
State/Affiliation: California
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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