Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 37.5" x 49.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 24.5" x 36.5"
34 star American national parade flag, printed on cotton, made during the opening years of the Civil War. The stars are arranged in a rare and beautiful variation of what is known as the "Great Star," a large star made out of smaller stars, which ranks firmly among collectors as one of the most coveted of all 19th century geometric designs.

Even among those with Great Star patterns, this is a beautiful flag. Note how the formation is tilted to one side, with one roughly directed toward the 11:00 o'clock position. Note also how 3 different sizes of stars were used in the configuration and how this feature contributes visually to the design. Because only 4 stars were used on the interior, arranged in a tight cluster, I have sometimes referred to this particular arrangement as a "Great Flower", noting the center stigma and 5 surrounding petals.

Because most of our flag's characteristics had no official stipulations until 1912, many of its elements were left up to the whims of its maker. There was no official way to arrange the stars, no official shades of red or blue, no official proportions for any aspect of scale, and no official number of points on the stars themselves. Deviations from modern convention is one reason why earlier flags are so interesting. Because many flags conformed to a more traditional concept, with rows of stars all in the same size, it is generally examples like this flag that drive collectors, with several sizes of stars in a whimsical presentation.

The concept of the Great Star pattern seems to have appeared shortly after the War of 1812, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York, requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 naval hero, sought to create a new design that would become the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Reid became harbor master of New York following the war. During his lifetime, he created many innovations in signal use, including a system that could actually send messages from New York to New Orleans by sea in just two hours.

Use as a Naval signal had been the primary reason for the initial creation of an American national flag in 1777, but since there was no official star design, the appearance of our flag varied greatly. Reid’s primary concern centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. His hope was as more and more states joined the Union and more and more stars were added to the flag, that it would remain easily identified on the open seas. In 1818, Reid suggested to Congress that the number of stripes permanently return to 13 (reduced from 15) and that the stars be grouped into the shape of one large star.

Reid’s proposal would have kept the star constellation in roughly the same format, in a pattern that could be quickly identified through a spyglass as the number of states grew. His concept for the stripes was ultimately accepted, but his advice on the star pattern was rejected by President James Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in what would become known as the “Great Star”, “Great Flower”, or “Great Luminary” pattern. Monroe probably didn’t wish to impose this cost on either the government or civilians, so he suggested a simple pattern of justified rows. Never-the-less, the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it and its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags with this configuration.

Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about 2 ½ months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but most flag makers would have added a 34th star with the addition of Kansas in January. The star count remained official until July 4th, 1863, and 34 star flags would have been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

This flag is particularly rare among surviving Civil War examples. It is one of perhaps just three known in this scale, with this exact star pattern, in this star count. One flag, probably from the same maker, is known in the same size with 35 stars. Five or six examples are known in 31 stars in 4 different sizes, three or four of which were professionally printed with text advertising the presidential campaign of John Fremont (1856). Two examples of a similar 34-star variety are known with 4 sizes of stars, using different colors and fabric with different proportions, but also large in size and similar overall appearance. The primary differences between their design and this one are that the Great Star isn't tilted and the blue is light in color (cornflower blue).

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% hemp fabric. Fabric of similar coloration was placed between the flag and its background for masking purposes. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is a moderate to significant area of fabric loss running from the top, hoist end corner downward at a slight angle through the canton and into the three stripes below. There is also a narrow strip of fabric absent along the top edge of the top red stripe. These circumstances occurred from use. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind these areas during the mounting process to mask the losses. There is moderate oxidation throughout with minor foxing and staining. Many of my clients enjoy flags that show their age. This is a very rare example that well-warrants any condition issues.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Kansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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