13 Star Antique Parade Flag | A Rare Large Size with an Upside Down Center Star | Circa 1861-1876

13 Star Antique Civil War Flag
13 Star Antique Civil War Flag

13 Star Antique Parade Flag | A Rare Large Size with an Upside Down Center Star | Circa 1861-1876

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Frame Size (H x L): 24.5” x 18”
Flag Size (H x L): 5.5” x 9.5” and Affixed to a 16” Staff

Offered is a terrific thirteen-star parade flag, dating to somewhere between 1861 and 1876.  While the size of this flag may initially appear to be small, it is actually an unusually large and rare size for this era.  Most thirteen-star parade flags that date to this era—and particularly to the Centennial—are between just three and four inches wide.  The larger scale of this flag is quite desirable and makes a big impact on the viewer. 

Its stars are arranged in a medallion formation with a larger center star, eight stars in a ring surrounding the center star, and four flanking stars surrounding the ring.  The large center star is positioned upside down, in that a single point of each star is facing downwards and two points are facing upwards.  Why stars are placed upside down on antique flags is unclear.  In at least some cases, flag makers probably did not consider any orientation of the stars to be “upwards” or “downwards,” and simply just placed them whichever they felt was correct.     

Though not particularly clear from the photos, the stripes of this particular flag are closer to orange than red.  Such a color is a result of the use of either madder or cochineal being used to create the red dye, and is common in flags dating between 1850 and 1870 (and to a much lesser extent, 1880).  The orange color of the “red” stripes is very attractive.  Given this flag’s rarity and orange stripes, this flag is likely to predate the Centennial and date to the Civil War era.  In either case, it is a very desirable parade flag.   

President Grant signed a proclamation admitting Colorado to the Union as the 38th state and it became known as the “Centennial State,” a result of becoming an official state just twenty-eight days after the centennial.  The official star count for US flags in 1876 was the thirty-seven star flag.  However, it was common for flag makers to produce anticipatory flags in advance of their official date, making the thirty-eight star flag—and for historical reasons, the thirteen star flag—the most common flags flown during the centennial celebrations of 1876.       

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.  The frame is gold in color and highly distressed.  

Condition Report: This flag has a minor tear near the bottom of its hoist end, but otherwise is in excellent condition and one of the best of this example that we have encountered.   

Collectability Level: The Great – Perfect Rising Collectors  
Date of Origin: 1861-1876
Number of Stars: 13
Associated War: The Indian Wars (1860-1890)  
Associated State: Original 13 Colonies

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