Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 32.5" x 38.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 21.5" x 27.25"
38 star American national parade flag, printed on silk, with a fine, hand-sewn, silk border on 3 sides and a treadle-sewn cotton binding along the hoist. The stars are arranged in lineal pattern of 34 larger stars, into which 4 smaller ones have been interestingly inserted between rows, in a rectangle of their own making, in the center of the canton.

I have explored several theories about the use of the smaller stars, but none provides a certain answer. The most plausible among them is that the flag was made in an earlier period than the total star count would indicate, and the small stars were anticipatory. This means that they represented territories that had not yet become states. If this is true, then these flags may have 34 stars to represent the official states, plus 4 smaller ones for the 4 remaining territories that existed in 1860, including Washington, Nebraska, Utah and New Mexico, the land masses of which were eventually divided into a larger number of individual territories and states.

This isn’t the only known 38 star design that employs 4 little stars among a field of larger ones. A very similar variety exists in roughly the same size, printed on cotton instead of silk. Its stars are arranged differently, but there are also 4 small ones placed roughly in the center of a lineal field. Yet another variety exists in which there are 4 small stars outside the basic pattern. The overall design of this flag, printed on cotton, may represent a beehive. All of the above are rare, which does suggest an earlier date, as does the particular shade of blue in the glazed cotton variety, which has the same overtones as some of the blue pigment I have seen in Civil War period parade flags.

None of this evidence is conclusive, however. In fact, surviving examples of gold-fringed, silk parade flags are seen with much greater frequency in the 1867-1889 era than they are in 1860. An even more perplexing question is raised by the existence of a 38 star variety that has 6 tiny stars, instead of 4, amidst a lineal field of 34 larger ones. This style is certainly period to 1876, based on its colors and fabric, and so cannot be explained by the same theory.

Whatever their purpose, this very rare group of flags that have little stars set firmly apart within lineal configurations are a great curiosity. I consider them very important objects in flag collecting. Further, this particular style is extremely scarce.

This exact flag was formerly in the collection of Richard Pierce and is featured on page 30 of his text "The Stars & The Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit" (published by Richard Pierce, 2005). For many years the Pierce collection has been the foremost assemblage of American parade flags.

Kansas became the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but production began much earlier. The 34 star flag was official for two years.

  Colorado became the 38th state on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Per the Third Flag Act of 1818, stars were not officially added until the 4th of July following a state's addition. For this reason, 37 was the official star count for the American flag in 1876. Flag-making was a competitive venture, however, and few flag-makers would have been continuing to produce 37 star flags when their competitors were making 38’s. It is for this reason that 38 and 13 stars (to represent the original 13 colonies) are more often seen at the Centennial International Exposition, the six-month long World’s Fair held in Philadelphia in honor of the event. Some flag-makers would have been adding a star for the 38th state even before it entered the Union, in the early part of 1876 or even prior. In fact, many makers of parade flags were actually producing 39 star flags, in hopeful anticipation of the addition of two more Western Territories instead of one. But the 39th state would not join the Union for another 13 years, when the Dakota Territory entered as two states on the same day. The 38 star flag became official on July 4th, 1877 and was generally used until the addition of the Dakotas in 1889.

Mounting: This is a pressure mount between U.V. protective Plexiglas and 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric 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 three part modern frame that consists of a liner that is constructed of wood, but has a metallic finish that presents like rusted antique iron with protruding nail heads. This is surrounded by a black molding with red undertones and highlights and a scooped profile, and capped with a square molding that is finished like gunmetal.

Condition: Part of the binding is absent, having been trimmed vertically, and there is some fraying of both the cotton and silk. The flag is otherwise excellent.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1889
State/Affiliation: Colorado
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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