|13 STARS IN A MEDALLION CONFIGURATION ON A SMALL-SCALE ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG OF THE 1890-1900 ERA
|Frame Size (H x L):||37.25" x 47.25"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||25.25" x 36"|
|13 star flag of the type made from roughly the last decade of the 19th century through the first quarter of the 20th. The stars are arranged in a medallion configuration, with a single, center star and four flanking corner stars. Most 13-star flags of this period have a less-desirable, staggered row design with stars arranged in counts of 3-2-3-2-3. Medallion patterns, like this one, seem to comprise about 20% of such flags that were produced during this era.
On this particular flag, the stars are curiously small in scale in proportion to the size of the flag, which adds an interesting element to its visual appearance. A bit more crude than the typical example, the flag has a nice, early, and somewhat more whimsical presentation than others of its kind. These features suggest that it is among the earliest examples of small 13 star flags of this general form and construction, probably made in the 10-year time frame between 1890 and 1900. Though unsigned, like most flags of this period, I have owned examples of this peculiar variety previously. This type is sometimes found without a hoist binding, purposely meant to be tacked to a staff as opposed to tied with rope or twine, which is not the norm among wool flags with pieced-and-sewn construction in any period but is more indicative of the 19th century.
Why 13 Stars? As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit their full complement on a small flag. The stars would, by necessity, have to become smaller, which made it more and more difficult to view them from a distance as individual objects. The fear was that too many stars would become one white mass and distort the ability to identify American ships on the open seas. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on its small-scale flags for precisely this reason. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states.
For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3 to 4 feet in length before the 1890's. There are exceptions to this rule, but until this time, the smallest sewn flags were approximately 6 feet on the fly. The primary use had long been more utilitarian than decorative, and flags needed to be large to be effective as signals. But private use grew with the passage of time, which led to the need for long-term use flags of more manageable scale. Beginning around 1890, flag-makers began to produce smaller flags for the first time in large quantities, typically measuring either 2 x 3 feet (like this example) or 2.5 x 4 feet. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, they chose the 13 star count rather than the full complement of stars, for sake of ease and visibility. Any flag that has previously been official, remains so according to the flag acts, so even today 13 star flags remain official national flags of the United States of America.
The 13 star count has been used throughout our nation's history for a variety of other purposes. 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, as well as for annual celebrations of Independence Day. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty, and were used by 19th century politicians in political campaigning. The use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding a fouled anchor, which allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs between 1848 and 1980, persists today without an official purpose.
Construction: The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with machine stitching. The cotton stars were double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) with a zigzag machine stitch. There is a narrow canvas binding along the hoist with two brass grommets.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.
The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.
Condition: There is minor mothing throughout and there is minor soiling in limited areas. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age gracefully.
|Collector Level:||Beginners and Holiday Gift Giving|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1890|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1900|
|State/Affiliation:||13 Original Colonies|