38 Star Antique Flag with Extremely Rare Clustered Star Pattern | Circa 1876-1889

38 Star Antique Flag - BONSELL | AMERICANA
38 Star Antique Flag - BONSELL | AMERICANA

38 Star Antique Flag with Extremely Rare Clustered Star Pattern | Circa 1876-1889


Frame Size (H x L): 24” x 19”
Flag Size (H x L): 17” x 12”   

Offered is a thirty-eight star antique flag with a royal blue canton, rich red stripes, and an extremely rare star pattern, comprising larger stars arranged linearly and surrounding a medallion of smaller stars.  This extremely desirable arrangement includes six linearly arranged larger stars in the first, second, fifth, and sixth rows.  And it includes four linearly arranged larger stars in the third and fourth rows.  The stars in the first row are canted to the 11:00 position, and the stars in the second row are alternatively canted to the 1:00 position.  The stars in the other rows are canted haphazardly, which adds significantly to this flag’s folksy appeal.

The most interesting feature of this star arrangement, however, is the medallion of six smaller stars.  Printing on cotton typically employed wooden blocks, which were hand-cut so as to leave raised surfaces bearing the desired pattern.  The block used in printing this flag was originally used for printing thirty-six star flags with a linear 6-6-6-6-6-6 pattern.  For convenience, this block was then recut, so that the middle four stars could be removed and replaced with the six smaller stars.  Flags printed with recut blocks are quite unusual and rare, and thus highly prized by collectors.

The thirty-eight star flag represents the inclusion of Colorado to the Union.  Colorado was admitted on August 1st, 1876 and this flag became official on July 4th, 1877.  Presidents Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, and Harrison all served under this flag.  Colorado became known as the “Centennial State,” a result of becoming official 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 nation’s centennial in 1876 inspired patriotism across the county and reunited its citizens.  Cities of all sizes hosted parades and celebrations, and buildings and homes were canvased in red, white, and blue with flags being the primary symbol of national pride.  The most notable celebration was the Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia.  In just six months, the Exhibition hosted nearly 10 million visitors, and included many extraordinary exhibits, including the introduction of the Corliss Steam Engine and Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. 

The thirty-eight star flag was official until July 4th, 1890, the time at which the forty-three star flag became official and began to represent the inclusion of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Idaho to the Union.

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.  

Condition Report: As shown in the photos, this flag has some minor staining and foxing.  Despite this, the flag presents wonderfully.     

Collectability Level: The Best – Perfect for Advanced Collectors  
Date of Origin: 1876-1889  
Number of Stars: 38   
Associated War: The Indian Wars (1860-1890)   
Associated State: Colorado  

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