Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 60.5" x 85"
Flag Size (H x L): 48.5" x 71"
This 13 star, antique American flag is one of the scarce few that pre-date the American Civil War (1861-65). Sewn entirely by hand and made sometime during the second quarter of the 19th century, it is constructed of hand-loomed wool bunting. The most unique feature can be found in the splendid and intriguing arrangement of stars. These are configured in what is known as a medallion pattern, but in a rare variation of it that is thus-far unique to this particular flag among documented nineteenth century examples. The design consists of 9 stars, arranged in a circular wreath with an open center. These are flanked by a single star in each corner of the blue canton. While many 13 star flags were produced throughout our nation's history, this is the only early example that I have ever encountered with this configuration of stars.

Lacking a star in the center, the design shares a characteristic with the perfect circle pattern, often attributed to Betsy Ross at the birth of our nation's flag. Flag historians now understand that the Ross story is a that developed in the last quarter of the 19th century. So despite popular notions and many depictions of flags in books, movies and other media, the absence of a star in the center of a circular design on 13 star flags is highly unusual in early America. With very rare exception, both circular and oval wreath patterns in the early periods had a star in the center. While an open, circular wreath can be found on images of the Stars & Stripes that appear on some colonial currency, it doesn't appear on actual flags until almost 100 years later and even then is exceptionally rare.

Beginning around 1861, 13 star medallion configurations began to appear that are similar to the one on this flag, but instead featured a single center star, surrounded by a wreath of 8 stars, with a flanking star outside it in each corner. Use of that design became frequent on small printed flags, called parade flags or "handwavers", but remained scarce among flags with pieced-and-sewn construction until the late 1890's.

Just one other flag is known with this basic design, which I acquired and sold several years ago. Sewn entirely by machine, it was probably made by the Annin Company in New York City during the first decade of the 20th century. Annin published a similar design in their 1909 catalogue.

Because there was no official star pattern for the Stars & Stripes until President Howard Taft signed an Executive Order that established one for the 48 star flag in 1912, many configurations of 13 stars are known and some were very popular among flag manufacturers. Since this medallion with an open center and a star in each corner was certainly not among them, one may speculate a reason for its offering. Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. With the colonial revival that was occurring in popular interior design of the ninetten-teens and twenties, and the celebration of our nation's 150th anniversary of independence in 1926, it seems logical to presume that the intent was to recreate a colonial-era star pattern. Until the discovery of this earlier, 1830-1850 example, however, I was unaware that the pattern actually existed during either the 18th or 19th centuries.

Although Annin didn't incorporate until 1847, the family's roots in flag manufacture date back to the 1830's and perhaps even prior. It may be that the configuration was made or recorded by an early member of the Annin family. Since most of the firm's records were destroyed in the 1960's, that question may sadly go unanswered. Whatever the case may be, however, this earlier flag becomes first-hand proof of pre-1861 manufacture.

American flags that pre-date the Civil War fall among the very earliest that survive in present-day America, constituting less than 1% of what exists that pre-dates Taft's 1912 order. Because of their connection to American independence and the beginnings of our nation, 13 star flags are and will always be appreciated by flag collectors and enthusiasts alike. This is particularly true of the earliest examples, of which there are so few. In light of these facts and in consideration of the rarity of the star pattern, the relatively small size, and the attractive features of this beautiful textile, the flag would be an extraordinary addition to any collection.

Construction: Hand-sewn wool bunting canton and stripes. Cotton stars, double-appliqued (applied to both sides) with a plain weave cotton binding along the hoist.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% natural fabrics for support on every seam and throughout the star field. Fabric of similar coloration was used to mask losses. The flag was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton, 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 plexiglass.

Condition: There is expected wear from obvious use at the top and bottom of the hoist end, with associated fabric loss, where the wool bunting meets the binding, and at the top and bottom corners of the fly end. There are minor losses elsewhere throughout and there is minor to moderate soiling. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The flag presents beautifully and its great rarity as the only known example, and with such an early date among known examples, warrants practically any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1830
Latest Date of Origin: 1850
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD

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