Entirely Hand Sewn 13 Star Antique Flag with a Misplaced Canton, an Incorrect Number of Stripes, and Randomly Placed Stars | A Civil War Era Masterpiece | Circa 1863

13 Star Antique Civil War Era American Flag
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13 Star Antique Civil War Era American Flag
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Entirely Hand Sewn 13 Star Antique Flag with a Misplaced Canton, an Incorrect Number of Stripes, and Randomly Placed Stars | A Civil War Era Masterpiece | Circa 1863

from 19,500.00

Frame Size (H x L): 33” x 41”
Flag Size (H x L): 23” x 31”

Offered is a spectacular thirteen-star flag that is entirely hand sewn with precision stitching.  Homemade, hand-sewn flags are amongst the most collectible and interesting of all antique flags.  They were typically made with whatever materials were available, and the placement of the canton, stripes, and stars is often times quite whimsical, as clearly shown in this Civil War era example.  Rarely can homemade flags be attributed to their maker, as the history is typically lost.  However, included with this flag is a small note that states the following, which is in alignment with its materials and construction:

American Flag
Made in 1863
By Pasannah Seekins my Mother    

This is a single-appliquéd flag in that its stars sewn to just one side of the canton.  When this approach is used, the canton is cut-away from behind each star and then hemmed.  By doing this, the single piece of material used for each star can be seen on both sides of the flag.  The single-appliqué method is difficult to execute, but conserves material (likely the main reason for doing so) and reduces the weight of the flag.  Single-appliquéd flags are much rarer than double-appliquéd flags, and further they tend to have a more attractive, folksier appearance. 

The star placement is random in nature, in contrast to a more common and organized arrangement, such as a 3-2-3-2-3 or medallion arrangement.  Notice that the stars have curved profiles, which makes them appear more whimsical than what we typically encounter.  This profile is seen most often in flags dating to the 1880s and earlier.  After this time, stars usually had very linear profiles, which was a function of more precise sewing and printing techniques.

This flag has twelve stripes, instead of the correct number of thirteen.  And further, the canton of this flag is positioned on the sixth white stripe, instead of on the eighth, as is customary.  Such placement of the canton causes it to be too small, as compared to the cantons on other flags.  In some cases, such oddities hold a meaning or are symbolic.  For example, an unusual number of stripes may symbolize certain states of the Union, or a canton positioned over a red stripe may indicate that the flag was made while the country was at war.  More likely, however, Mrs. Seekins was generally aware of what a US flag should include—a blue canton, white stars on the canton, and red and white stripes—but did not know how big the canton should be, where it should be placed, or the number of stripes to include.  Flags were not used for patriotic purposes until roughly 1861, which likely explains why she made a flag with these unusual features in 1863. 

The stripes are made of cotton, and several were pieced together using smaller pieces of fabric.  In fact, seven of the thirteen stripes—whether red or white—contain multiple pieces of fabric that are hand sewn together.  This frugal use of materials is seen most often in Civil War flags, in that cotton and wool became quite scarce during this time.

Adding yet further to the unusual nature of this flag is its size.  Most piece-and-sewn flags dating to the 19th century were quite large, typically eight feet wide or wider, as they were used as signaling devices for the military or for sailors.  To encounter all of the unusual features described above, in a flag that fits over a mantle or in an office, is extremely difficult and results in a collection defining flag. 

The original use of the thirteen-star flag dates to June 14th, 1777, the time at which the Continental Congress adopted a resolution creating the first official flag.  The resolution stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.”  Thirteen-star flags were official from 1777-1795, but have been in use ever since.  

Small US Navy boats used it as the ensign from 1795 until 1916.  Thirteen-star flags were also flown at the time of George Washington’s death in 1799 and to celebrate the nation’s 50th anniversary in 1824.  They were also flown in 1824 in honor of General Lafayette’s return to the US for his nationwide tour.  Celebrations for his Revolutionary War service were held in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, along with many locations in the southern and western states. 

Further, thirteen-star flags were also common during the Mexican War in 1846-1848 and the Civil War in 1861-1865.  They were both relatively close in time to the revolution, and were very patriotic times, particularly during the Civil War time period when flag use became much more common than had ever previously been the case.  Thirteen-star flags were also flown during the centennial celebrations, which were held across the country and, most notably, in Philadelphia at the Centennial International Exhibition. 

Conservation Process: This flag was hand sewn to cotton fabric, and both were hand sewn to a mounting board.  To prevent the black dye in the cotton fabric from seeping into the flag, it was first washed in a standard wash and then in a dye setting wash.  The flag is positioned behind a UV resistant acrylic, and spaced apart therefrom using spacers. 

Frame: This offering is in our Large Gold Frame.  However, it can be reframed and would look great using any one of our Large Frames, which are shown in the final image.  The pricing associated with the different framing options may vary.  Reframing of an offering may delay shipment by up to two weeks.       

Condition Report: The flag has some minor mothing, foxing, and tears.  Overall, however, it is in extraordinary, period-correct condition.     

Collectability Level: The Extraordinary – Museum Quality Offerings   
Date of Origin: 1863  
Number of Stars: 13
Associated War: Spanish-American War (1898)    
Associated State: Original 13 Colonies

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