13 WHIMSICAL STARS IN A TALL AND NARROW CANTON, ON A HOMEMADE FLAG WITH OUTSTANDING FOLK PRESENTATION, MADE AROUND THE TIME OF THE 1876 CENTENNIAL
13 star American national flag, homemade and with some exceptional folk qualities. Chief among these are the shape of the stars, their configuration, and the tall, skinny canton on which they are placed. These features are further augmented by an attractive shade of blue and the placement of the canton itself, which falls in the midst of a white stripe as opposed to on the top edge, as well as the backwards-facing orientation of the one-sided design.
Note how the arms of the stars, which have rather fat profiles, bend this way and that in a manner not unlike starfish. These are arranged in what is commonly called a medallion pattern, which was a popular arrangement in 1876 and consisted of a star in the center, surrounded by a wreath of stars, which was flanked by a star in each corner. In this case, note how the vertical orientation of the canton has forced the flanking corner stars into the horizontal confines of the vertically-oriented design, which results in a presentation that has a modern art sensibility, especially when combined with such whimsical stars.
This one-of-a-kind example dates to the period surrounding the 1876 centennial of American independence. The flag is made entirely of cotton which has been pieced with treadle stitching. There is a narrow, red, hand-sewn binding along the portion of the hoist below the canton, which adds a nice visual feature. The stars are properly appliqued, yet only on one side. Don't be fooled by the backwards orientation with respect to how we think that the flag should be displayed in modern time. During the 18th and 19th centuries there were no flag ethics like there are today. It wasn't until the late 1880's that rules concerning proper etiquette for flag use and display started to take shape and the concept didn't blossom into its current form until the patriotism that surrounded World War II. During the 19th century there was no backwards or forwards, per say. Homemade flags were very often one-sided and backwards-facing, made in haste for such things as parades, homecomings, and events surrounding the death of fallen presidents, most notably the assassinated Lincoln (1865) and Garfield (1881).
The small scale of the flag itself is very desirable. Prior to the last decade of the 19th century, most flags made for extended outdoor use were very large. Those with pieced-and-sewn construction were generally eight feet long and larger. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals. Today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism. Smaller flags exist in the early periods, but they are the exception. A six-foot example is small among flags of those that pre-date 1890, and they smaller they are, the rarer they are. Measuring just shy of four feet on the fly, this one is particularly so. Because 19th century sewn flags can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting, many collectors prefer small examples, like this one.
Due to a combination of the small scale and great design, this is an excellent example among 13 star flags of the 19th century.
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 in political 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. The use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding an fouled anchor, which allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs between 1848 and 1980, persists today without an official purpose.
Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field. 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 with a wide serpentine profile. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: There is very minor foxing and staining. The colors are strong and the condition is absolutely excellent for the period.
Frame Size (H x L): 44.25" x 59.25" Flag Size (H x L): 31.75" x 47.25"
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