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  36 STARS, CIVIL WAR ERA, MADE BY ANNIN IN NEW YORK CITY, IN AN UNUSUAL TINY SIZE FOR THE PERIOD AND ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN, PROBABLY CARRIED AS A MILITARY CAMP COLORS OR GUIDON, NEVADA STATEHOOD, 1864-67

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 34.75" x 47"
Flag Size (H x L): 23.25" x 36"
Description....:
Entirely hand-sewn American national flag of the Civil War era, with 36 stars, in a unusual and highly desirable small size for the period (1864-67). The stars 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 of the flag. 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 also because they are more visually intriguing. Both the sewing itself and stretching of the fabrics over time has results in stars that have irregular shapes and interesting presentation, which is certainly the case here. This is why flags with single-appliquéd stars often appeal to connoisseurs of early American textiles. The two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction and their narrow, starfish-like profiles have substantial folk qualities.

This flag was made by Annin in New City and is signed with a now-faded stencil along the hoist binding. Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. The company was founded in the 1830's, incorporated in 1847, and was located in New York until the 1960’s, when it moved to Verona, New Jersey.

A flag of this scale would have served well as a flank-marker, or as a camp colors, and may have been employed in either function. Though not of the exact dimensions for military issue, the demand for flags during wartime often exceeded their availability and reasonable substitutions were made as necessary. In addition, many units were outfitted entirely with private funding and their flags were acquired outside military channels. While some sources that record makers of military goods lack reference to specific military contracts with Annin, their Wikipedia entry might explain why. The narrative states: "…the U.S. Signal Corps requisitioned all its wartime flags from Annin Flagmakers for the Civil War. An undated newspaper article in Annin's 1860's archives states: "Without going through forms of contract, Annin supplied the government direct." "…As the war progressed, orders came pouring in from every state and city that was loyal to the Union, so that by the beginning of 1864, there was not a single battlefield, a brigade or a division that did not use Annin flags."

The flag's state of preservation clearly demonstrates repeated use and care, while the losses and repairs are both endearing and add to the presentation. This is the exact sort of wear and treatment that I would expect in a flag following military service.

Lincoln pushed Nevada through to statehood on October 31st, 1864, during the Civil War, and just 8 days before the November election. The territory’s wealth in silver was attractive to a nation struggling with the debts of war and the president's support of statehood increased support for the Republican ticket. While the 36th star wouldn't officially be added until July 4th of the following year, flag makers cared little for official star counts. Some would have begun adding the 36th star several months before the addition of Nevada actually occurred and almost all would have added it after Nevada was in. Commercially produced flags with inscribed dates are known as early as July of 1864, four months before Nevada's addition. Adding stars before they were official was common practice during the late 19th century and reflects both the nation's desire for Westward Expansion and the hope of flag makers to bring new star counts to market before their competitors. It is interesting to note that 36 is the lowest star count I have ever encountered on a flag with a Annin signature. While in business for at least 30 years by this time, it seems that the firm did not sign its flags before this period. The 36 star flag was officially replaced by the 37 star flag in 1867, following the addition of Nebraska.

Adding to the appeal of this flag is its comparably tiny size when compared to others made for extended outdoor use prior to 1890. During the 19th century, flags with pieced-and-sewn construction (as opposed to printed) were typically eight feet long or larger. This is because they were important in their function as signals, meaning that they needed to be seen and recognized from great distance. Even flags made for decorative purpose were generally very large by today’s standards. A six-foot long flag was considered small. Commercial production of flags smaller than this with sewn construction was near-to-non-existent, with the exception of camp colors and flank-markers/guidons, surviving examples of which are extremely scarce in the marketplace. Measuring just three feet on the fly, this flag is particularly tiny among its counterparts of the period. Since the average 19th century sewn flag can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting, many collectors prefer printed parade flags, which are small by nature, and smaller sewn flags, like this one.

Construction: The canton and stripes are made of wool bunting. Wool sheds water and was the fabric of choice for extended outdoor use. That stars are made of cotton and the hoist binding is made of coarse linen or hemp. There would have originally been a brass grommet at either end of the binding. All of the stitching is by hand. The stars are single-appliquéd.

Mounting: The flag was stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field for support. It was then 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 are moderate losses in the first red stripe, the upper hoist-end corner of the canton, and along the hoist binding, which is split vertically along the outer edge and is missing its brass grommets. There are more minor losses elsewhere and various darning repairs throughout. The maker's stencil is extremely faded. The flag's state of preservation is in accordance with what one would expect of a war-time, military use and is attractively endearing. 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: 36
Earliest Date of Origin: 1864
Latest Date of Origin: 1867
State/Affiliation: Nevada
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
 

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