Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 46" x 87"
Flag Size (H x L): 34.5" x 76"
13 star American national flag, made sometime in the period between 1876 and first half of the 1890’s and probably toward the latter portion of this date bracket. The stars are configured into rows in counts of 4-5-4, which is an attractive and desirable pattern among flag collectors. Note the irregularity of the placement of the stars, as well as the way in which the position of each varies on its vertical axis. Also of interest is the shape of the stars themselves, which varies greatly, some with arms bent this way and that and of differing lengths, exhibiting great folk qualities. Note as well how the coloration of the canton has faded to an attractive shade of stone blue-grey, which many collectors find to be particularly attractive. Collectively these attributes lend great visual appeal to the overall design.

The 4-5-4 lineal configuration is both scarcer and more appealing than rows of stars in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, which prevails on at least 70% of the surviving examples made during the late 19th century. The 4-5-4 design seems to have been popular in fledgling America, as evidenced by both surviving flags and images within drawings, paintings, and engravings. It appears on U.S. Navy flags of the mid-19th century and is frequently encountered in flags of the Civil War. For some reason, however, it seems to have not been popular during the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence, when many 13 star flags were made, but the pattern appears once again on small, commercially produced flags of the 1890’s. Suffice to say that the 4-5-4 pattern is scarce, however, in any flag that post-dates the Civil War.

Since there was no official star pattern for the American national flag set forth in the flag act of June 14th, 1777, and because the original does not survive, nor even descriptions of it recorded in public documents or private journals, no one actually knows what the very first flag actually looked like. Due to its apparent popularity in early America, however, as evidenced by both drawings and surviving 19th century examples, more than one flag expert has hedged that lineal rows of 4-5-4 is a viable candidate for the original configuration.

13 star flags have been continuously produced throughout our nation's history for purposes both patriotic and utilitarian. This was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the original 13 colonies, so it was appropriate for any flag made in conjunction with celebrations of American independence. 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. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians while campaigning for the same reason.

13 star flags were flown by American ships both private and federal. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on the ensigns made for small boats, because they wished the stars to be easily discerned at a distance. As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag so that they may be viewed from afar as individual objects. Because any star count that has previously been official remains so today according to the Congressional flag acts, all 13 star flags in an otherwise appropriate design remain official flags of the United States.

This particular flag was produced in a cottage industry setting. Both the size of the flag and its proportions are very unusual among its 13 star counterparts. When commercial flag-makers began for the first time to make 13 star flags in quantity for general consumption, beginning around 1890, they did so primarily in two sizes, including 2x3 feet and 2.5x4 feet. There was some variation across makers, and larger examples can be encountered, but extremely few bear the 4-5-4 configuration and practically none in this scale were long and skinny, like this flag, which is unique in my experience among its 13 star counterparts of this period.

The stripes and canton of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been joined with machine stitching. The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with lineal machine stitching. There is a binding along the hoist made of heavy cotton twill, with 2 brass grommets. The intended use of this flag was probably nautical. Flags used at sea were more practical if long and narrow, so that they may be turned back and hemmed numerous times as a means of repair, to extend their term of use.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support on every seam and throughout the star field. The flag was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, which 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. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is minor very mothing throughout and there is very minor soiling. There is some fabric loss from use in the top stripe at the fly end. Wool bunting of similar weave and coloration was placed behind this area for masking purposes. 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: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1895
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association:
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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