Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 25.5" x 20.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 16" x 11.5"
37 star American parade flag, printed on a blended cotton and wool fabric. 25 of its stars are carefully arranged in an elongated diamond. Flanking each side, running parallel to it, are trios stars in neat, lineal rows. This is an exceptionally rare style and I am presently aware of five or fewer to exist.

In the world of antique American flags there are nearly countless star patterns, but most have lineal rows or columns. Some have circular designs, which are further down the rarity scale. The Great Star is much more scarce and highly coveted, and can be among the very best visually, but there are rarer configurations still. Among these are circles within squares, pentagons, ovals, and completely random patterns. There are flags where the stars actually spell something with alphabetic or numeric characters, some of which are among the rarest of all, but with regard to geometric configurations, the rarest--and arguably the most beautiful--are diamonds, shields, snowflakes, and starbursts (with occasional, unique exceptions). From a folk art perspective, these often excel beyond all others and are certainly more unusual to the eye. This particular flag is no exception.

These particular flags are known to have been printed alongside another variety of parade flag, in the same size, with 13 stars. I discovered this fact when I encountered 3 of each on the original bolt, uncut, positioned side-by-side. In the 13 star variety, equally rare among surviving examples, the stars are larger, are arranged in a circular medallion with a wreath of 8 surrounding a single, center star and a flanking star in each corner. Like the 37 star diamond pattern flags, these are especially unusual, not only because 13 star parade flags are almost always significantly smaller in size, but even more so because the stars themselves have what is called a haloed design, with a thin white line that follows their perimeter.

These flags would have been made to celebrate the 1876 Centennial of American independence. Probably they were specifically made for the Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, an important World’s Fair that served as the official celebration of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Unusually parade flags were printed on cotton or silk, or sometimes even on paper, to be waved or displayed in short-term use at parades, patriotic or political events. Because cotton and paper absorb water, and because silk is not appropriate for long-term exposure to water, these materials are not optimal for long-term outdoor use. The reason for the inclusion of wool was that it sheds water, making it an obvious choice for flags that were to be used outdoors over an extended period. The Centennial Expo lasted for six months and this is the reason that some makers used wool or wool blends for small, decorative flags.

The 37th state, Nebraska, joined the Union on March 1st, 1867. The 37 star flag was official from that year until 1877, although it generally fell out of use in 1876 with the addition of Colorado. The 37 star-count is scarce in comparison to those that immediately preceded and followed it. This is due primarily to the lack of major patriotic events during the period when 37 star flags were generally used, which followed the Civil War yet preceded the 100-year anniversary of our nation's independence. While the 37 star flag was still official in 1876, it was well known that at least one more state would be joining the Union that year. This caused flag makers to cease production in favor of 38 and 39 star flags. For this reason, 37 star flags were seldom produced for our nation's centennial, where 38 and 39 star counts were preferred, along with 13 star examples to commemorate the original 13 colonies. Even so, some 37 star flags survive that, like this one, are known to have been made in the fanfare of our nation's 100-year anniversary. I have long presumed that some of those with more whimsical star configurations, such as this flag, were produced specifically for that purpose.

Mounting: The gold molding is ca 1890-1920. To this a modern black molding with a rippled profile molding with subtle gold highlights was added as a cap around the outer edge. The flag has been hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric was washed to reduce 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. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass.

Condition: There is a small nick of fabric loss in the white area along the hoist, running just into the beginning of the 6th white stripe. There is fraying along the fly end, accompanied by a tiny hole at the end of the 4th white stripe and some moderate holes and breakdown at the end of the last red stripe. There is some splitting in the white area along the top, which originally separated two flags on the bolt. This just reaches into the edge of the top red stripe. There is minor staining and soiling of various kindsmany of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The extreme rarity of this example warrants almost any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 37
Earliest Date of Origin: 1867
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Nebraska
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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