Entirely Handmade 36 Star Antique Flag with a Great Star Pattern | A True Folk Art Masterpiece | Circa 1864-1867

Framed Handmade 36 Star Antique Flag with a Great Star Pattern
Closeup of Handmade 36 Star Antique Flag with a Great Star Pattern
The Canton of a Handmade 36 Star Antique Flag with a Great Star Pattern
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Framed Handmade 36 Star Antique Flag with a Great Star Pattern
Closeup of Handmade 36 Star Antique Flag with a Great Star Pattern
The Canton of a Handmade 36 Star Antique Flag with a Great Star Pattern
Handmade 36 Star Antique US Flag with Extraordinary Great Star 4.JPG
Handmade 36 Star Antique US Flag with Extraordinary Great Star 5.JPG
Handmade 36 Star Antique US Flag with Extraordinary Great Star 6.JPG
Handmade 36 Star Antique US Flag with Extraordinary Great Star 7.JPG
Handmade 36 Star Antique US Flag with Extraordinary Great Star 8.JPG
Handmade 36 Star Antique US Flag with Extraordinary Great Star 9.JPG
Handmade 36 Star Antique US Flag with Extraordinary Great Star 10.JPG
5. 4 Distressed Gold Image.jpg

Entirely Handmade 36 Star Antique Flag with a Great Star Pattern | A True Folk Art Masterpiece | Circa 1864-1867

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Price: Call 618-553-2291, or email info@bonsellamericana.com
Frame Size (H x L): 34” x 43”
Flag Size (H x L): 21” x 30”

Offered is a thirty-six star parade flag, which is unquestionably one of our favorite offerings to date.  The stripes of this flag are made of individual strips of red and white silk, the canton is made of three strips of blue silk, and the hoist is made of a strip of white silk.  Each star is hand embroidered, fourteen of which are embroidered with gold string and twenty-two of which are embroidered with white string.  Each star includes five split petals and a center portion.  The entire flag is hand sewn with gorgeous, precision-like stitches. 

The inclusion of both gold and white stars is a trait that we had never previously encountered before discovering this flag.  This contrast may be an indication that this flag was made with whatever materials were available to the maker.  This is likely the case, given that this flag was made during the Civil War.  Alternatively, the inclusion of gold and white stars may have some kind of symbolism.  For example, the maker may have intended that the white stars represent the Northern States, while the gold stars represent the eleven Southern States plus three additional states that the maker viewed as having southern sympathies.  Regardless of the reason for having both gold and white stars, this is an extremely rare feature.        

This flag is small in size for a piece-and-sewn flag, dating to the Civil War.  This adds considerably to its appeal, as it can be easily displayed.  It was not until the Civil War that small piece-and-sewn flags were made with any frequency at all, and not until the 1890s that they were made with regularity.  During most of the 19th century, flags made with piece-and-sewn construction had a width of at least eight feet, as they were typically used as signaling devices for the military or by sailors.  Even the flags that were used for decorative purposes usually had a width of six feet or more, and versions smaller than this were quite rare. 

This flag is not made of weighted silk, unlike many of its Civil War era counterparts.  Silk was originally sold by length and width, but in the early 19th century, it was sold by the pound.  For this reason, many silk manufacturers began dipping and weighting their silk with mineral salts.  And while this increased profits, mineral salts slowly damage silk and many significant antique flags have thus been lost as a result of this practice.  Fortunately, this flag was not made of weighted silk, hence its good condition for its age and construction.   

The stars on this flag are arranged in a "Great Star" pattern, one of the rarest and most beautiful patterns encountered in antique flags.  The Great Star pattern is a large star made of smaller stars.  The smaller stars may be a variety of sizes, and may be canted in a various directions.  Such a pattern was perfectly acceptable, as prior to President Taft's Executive Order 1556 in 1912, flag makers were free to place the stars however they wished. 

US Naval Captain Samuel Reid is credited with designing the Great Star pattern in 1818.  Captain Reid was an officer in the US Navy and commanded the privateer General Armstrong during the War of 1812.  Andrew Jackson credited Captain Reid's heroism in delaying the British Squadron in the Battle of Fayal, and aiding in General Jackson's defense of New Orleans.  Captain Reid and his crew were greeted as heroes. 

The Second Flag Act, passed in 1794, stated that the flag would have fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, in response to Vermont and Kentucky being added to the Union.  Knowing that this approach would not be sustainable, with Captain Reid's help, Congress passed the Flag Act of 1818, specifying that the flag should only have thirteen stripes, but should have a star for each state admitted to the Union.  It further specified that the addition of each star should be on the Fourth of July following its respective state's admission. 

Captain Reid played a significant role in the Flag Act of 1818, and recommended a basic design of thirteen horizontal alternating stripes in honor of the thirteen colonies, and a star in honor of each state.  He further recommended several potential star patterns, including twenty stars in the shape of a larger star for general use.  Reid suggested this pattern to make the flag consistent and easily identifiable, particularly at long distances and at sea.  His star pattern recommendation was not ultimately included in the Act, nor was any star pattern, but Captain Reid is universally credited with designing the Great Star pattern.  Its use peaked in the 1840s, but it was also used during the Civil War and occasionally during Centennial Celebrations.  Its last known commercial use was on a thirty-eight star flag.

The thirty-six star flag represents the inclusion of Nevada to the Union.  Nevada was admitted on October 31st, 1864, and this flag became official on July 4th, 1865.  Nevada was originally part of the Utah Territory beginning in 1850, became its own territory in 1861, and became its own state in 1864.  The timing of Nevada's inclusion was politically and economically based.  For political reasons, Nevada was admitted to the Union just eight days prior to President Lincoln's re-election bid against General George McClellan.  Such timing was meant to benefit Lincoln and his fellow Republicans.  For economic reasons, Nevada was included as part of the Union to help it pay off the country’s war debts.  Economically, Nevada was particularly attractive at the time, because of its significant silver mining industry.  Nevada expanded its borders in 1866 when the western Utah Territory was added to its eastern side, and further expanded in 1867 when a portion Pah-Ute County in the Arizona Territory was added to its southern side.  

The thirty-six star flag was the official flag for the last six months of the Civil War, and was used by the military during that time.  It was also the official flag during a portion of the Reconstruction era.  Ultimately, the thirty-six star flag was official until July 4th, 1867, the time at which the thirty-seven star flag became official and began to represent the inclusion of Nebraska in the Union. 

Conservation Process: The flag is sandwiched between cotton fabric and a UV resistant acrylic.  The cotton was hand sewn to a mounting board.  To prevent the black dye in the cotton from seeping into the flag, it was first washed in a standard wash and then in a dye setting wash. 

Frame: The offering is in our X-Large Distressed Gold Frame.  

Condition Report: This flag exhibits a few minor tears, most notably along the top of the hoist and along the top of the red stripe along the hoist.  This flag does not appear to be made of weighted silk and is, thus, stable in nature.  It does have some minor stains, as shown in the pictures.  Despite these flaws, this flag is a true survivor and one of the best Civil War flags to ever surface. 

Collectability Level: The Extraordinary – Museum Quality Offerings   
Date of Origin: 1864-1867  
Number of Stars: 36   
Associated War: Civil War (1861-1865)
Associated State: Nevada

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