|The vast majority of 13 star parade flags made during the 19th century date to the 1876 celebration of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. This very rare example is one of the few known to have instead been made in the patriotism of the Civil War. Because I have previously found this particular variety rolled up with 34 star parade flags that were, without doubt, printed by the same maker, on the same fabric and using the identical pigments, I can specifically date this style to the opening two years of the war (1861-1863), before West Virginia broke off of Virginia and entered the Union as the 35th state.
Among known 13 star parade flags, this is an unusual variation. Most types have stars configured in a single wreath of 8 with a star in the very center and a star in each corner of the blue canton. At first glance, that is precisely what this arrangement seems to be here, but on closer examination one will see that this wreath is not circular, but that the stars are arranged in four distinct, inward-facing triangles, with a star in the center. One flag expert used to call this variety a “tri-corner hat” medallion and because that name seemed very fitting, I continue to use it today to differentiate this odd variety of Civil War flag.
Interestingly enough, this type of 13 star parade flag was found alongside another type, which did actually have its stars arranged in a circular wreath with the typical center and corner stars. Both varieties are odd because they employ stars that are all the same size. 1876 varieties typically feature a large center star.
Another interesting trait in this particular flag is the orientation of the stars themselves, all of which are essentially position with two points up. In modern terms, this position might be considered upside-down. Prior to the 1890’s it is common to see all sorts of different things with regard to the positions of stars on their vertical axis. No one knows if this upside-down positioning had any meaning. It may likely be that no particular position was considered by flag-makers to be right-side-up. Whatever the case may be, collectors are fond of the unusual.
13 star flags have been flown throughout our nation’s history for a variety of purposes. They 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. The U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats until 1916, because it was easier to discern fewer stars at a distance on a small flag. Commercial flag-makers mirrored this practice and some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy.
Mounting: The dark stained poplar molding with ebonized trim is American, retains its original gilded liner, and dates to the period between the latter 1860’s and the 1880’s. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, that has been washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the was 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 minor soiling and remnants of glue along the hoist end, where the flag was formerly affixed to its original staff, accompanied by a minor hole in the 4th white stripe. The overall condition is excellent for the period. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.