Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 23.25" x 30.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 13.75" x 21"
This exceptional antique American parade flag is singular among known examples. Not only is it the only known flag in this style, but the only one that has thus-far been discovered in the 25 star count. Block-printed on a cotton and flax blended fabric, the stars are configured in a rectilinear arrangement that consists of 5 rows of 5. Crudely shaped and with their arms oriented in various directions, 24 of these were intended to appear in one size, surrounding a larger star in the centermost position. Their total, along with the flag's construction, suggest that the flag was made to reflect Union sympathies during the Civil War, displaying the number of the states that the maker felt was loyal to the federal cause.

At the onset of the war, Lincoln fervently urged the American people not to remove those stars from the flag that represented the states that were succeeding. He felt strongly that there was great need to demonstrate that the government had not written off those Americans who were living in the South, yet did not support the Confederacy. He also knew that there was great need to show both the nation and the world that the federal government was strong and that he would do everything in his power to ensure Union victory.

Despite his pleas, there were some who did as they wished with regard to the number of stars on the Stars & Stripes, removing those that represented Confederate states. The 25 stars on this particular flag represents a count that could theoretically have been chosen for that purpose at more than one time during the course of the war. The most likely scenario occurred in mid-1861 following Arkansas secession. Between late 1860 and early 1861, 7 slaveholding Southern States voted for secession (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas). The group officially agreed to leave the Union together on February 2nd, 1861, in what is called "the first wave of secession." These were followed by Virginia and Arkansas as numbers 8 and 9 respectively, between April and May.

Virginia approved secession by popular vote on April 17th of that year. Arkansas followed with a popular vote on May 6th. Tennessee voted just one day later, but the Tennessee legislature didn't ratify the vote until June 8th. Between May 6th, when Arkansas seceded, and June 8th, when Tennessee ratified the popular vote of the people, there is a period of approximately 1 month when the number of states that supported the Union might be represented by the 34 there were in total, ignoring secession, less the 9 that were seceding, which equals 25.

Adding credence to this theory is a pencil-written note, affixed to the flag in the stripe field, adjacent to the canton. This reads: "1861 had this flag 50 years Nan." Though added 50 years later, and in consideration of the knowledge that family history tends to become flawed with the passage of time, 1861 does happen to be the year I would most expect.

Another possibility to arrive at a count of 25 occurred near the end of the war, following the June, 1863 addition of West Virginia and the October, 1864 addition of Nevada. By this time there were 11 states that had voted for secession by popular vote, with the state governments ratifying. Two of the Border States, Missouri and Kentucky, had been accepted into the Confederacy by its president, Jefferson Davis, but these did not secede from the Union in the same manner. In Missouri, an ordinance of secession was never presented to the people for a vote. Instead, Southern-supporting state congressman met without their Northern-sympathizing counterparts. This rump congress overwhelmingly approved Missouri secession. Supporters of the Southern cause in Kentucky soon followed suit. While the state attempted to maintain neutrality, the invasion by Confederate troops prompted them to call upon Union forces to drive out the Confederate Army. While in a state of unrest, some citizens formed a group that stylized itself as a “Convention of the People of Kentucky”. With 200 participants representing 65 counties, the coalition voted in favor of secession and the Confederate States of America formally admitted Kentucky as the 13th state.

Stars for Missouri and Kentucky are usually included on Confederate battle flags, but each of these states supplied Union regiments. Because their circumstances were significantly different than the first 11, a Southern-exclusionary flag made by Union supporters might not exclude the 2 states.

The above analysis should be treated, in some respects, as an over-simplification of how such star counts were achieved, given the dates and changes in the number of Confederate and Union-supporting states throughout the war. It pays to bear in mind that while the above totals show two possibilities, any given individual might have viewed the various allegiances differently and calculated accordingly, based on his/her own opinion of the matters at hand. In addition, the three other Border States of Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia might be included or excluded. The same goes for Western States like California and Oregon, which struggled some with their allegiances between the North and Southern causes. Territories such as Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada or Nebraska may have influenced the number, because some flag-makers were speculating on the addition of new states when they made flags, including stars before the respective territories actually gained statehood. Whatever the case may be, one should remember that the calculation is not only difficult, but easily influenced by personal preference and/or ignorance of the facts. In any event, Very few Southern-exclusionary star counts exist among known Stars & Stripes parade flags. I can think of only a few other varieties and there are probably fewer than 15 flags among them in total. One style, with 21 stars, was made for the 1864 Lincoln-Johnson campaign. Only one example of that flag is known. Another style, with 22 stars, was made post-war for the 1876 campaign of Hayes & Wheeler. Hayes was a Union Army general, wounded at South Mountain and with a good reputation. Union veterans who supported his ticket would have found the exclusionary count favorable. Two examples of that variety are known. Other styles exists with 18, 19, and 20 stars, of which there are a tiny handful of surviving flags, maybe 7 or so in total. So there are approximately 11 known parade flags with exclusionary star counts, in a combination of 6 styles.

The first printed flags made using the pigments and fabric employed in this 25 star example appear in the 29 star period (1846-48). This manner of construction is indicative of the era between 1846 and the early 1890's, but this particular flag has the feel of those made on the earlier side of this date bracket, possibly 1850's, yet probably Civil War, as evidenced in part by the exclusionary count.

The earliest known parade flags have either 26 or 13 stars and were made in the period when we had 26 states, between 1837 and 1845 (the 13 star examples made in reference to the original number of colonies). The very first which are datable to a specific year were produced in 1840 for the presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison and include Whig ticket campaign advertising. These are found in both cotton and silk, in both 26 and 13 stars, but none of the known examples of this time frame have either the particular cotton & hemp fabric or the pigments used in the 25 star example. These facts, when weighed in conjunction with the hand-written note, as well as my long experience handing and comparing thousands of printed flags, confirms the 1861 date.

From a visual perspective, the flag is both rare and interesting. Because there was no official star configuration for the American national flag until 1912, their design was left to the whims of the flag-maker. Artist’s liberty and creative expression led to a host of various star patterns. Among these are not only rows and columns of stars, but circular formations, star-shaped formations, and all manner of other arrangements that span from the common and benign to the exceptionally rare and whimsical. One of the earliest concepts in the layout of the stars was to feature a large one in the center of the blue canton amidst an otherwise lineal configuration. Because so few flags survive from the first fifty years following our independence, scant few examples exist with this feature, but it can be seen on the only known 17-star, 17-stripe flag (1803-1812), for example, that has so-far been discovered, as well as a fragment of the another flag that was found alongside it. It can also be seen on a rare, 24-star example (1821-1836), as well as a particular early flag with 13 stars that probably pre-dates 1830 and may be of 18th century vintage.

In the case of printed parade flags, like this one, I can think of only two examples with a big star at the center of a linear design, each of which survives as the only known flag in its respective style. Neither of these has thus far been documented in any text. This is one of those two exceptionally rare flags. Note how the shape and position of the stars adds strong folk qualities to the flag's presentation.

In summary, this is a one-of-a-kind flag in both style and star count, with among the rarest of all known star patterns, the concept of which can be encountered among the earliest of all known flags, yet is present on only two known printed examples. It is Civil War period with an exclusionary count, a trait it shares with just 11 or so parade flags in 6 different formats. All-in-all, this is among the best Civil war parade flags that I have ever had the privilege to acquire.

Mounting: The ripple profile molding dates to the period between 1830 and 1850. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, that 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 glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is moderate to significant soling and oxidation throughout, accompanied by moderate pigment loss in a craquelured fashion in the red-orange stripes. There is minor fading throughout. There are some tack holes along the hoist end, where the flag was once attached to a wooden staff. There is minor fabric loss along both the hoist and fly ends and there is some uneven shrinkage along the fly end. The paper note is oxidized and soiled. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Further, the great rarity of the flag warrants practically any condition.

* There are some tiny printed flags with 25 stars, made of silk or rayon in Japan for the American market during the early-mid 20th century. Measuring about 1.5 inches on the fly, these were not parade flags. Instead they were affixed to tiny staffs made of grass or bamboo and sold to decorate Christmas trees, cakes, etc.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 25
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861-64
Latest Date of Origin: 1861-64
State/Affiliation: Arkansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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