36 Star Antique Flag with a Grand Luminary Pattern | A Spectacular Flag in Every Respect | Nevada Statehood | Circa 1864-1867

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36 Star Antique Flag with a Grand Luminary Pattern | A Spectacular Flag in Every Respect | Nevada Statehood | Circa 1864-1867

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Price: Call 618-553-2291, or email info@bonsellamericana.com 
Frame Size (H x L): 55” x 80”
Flag Size (H x L): 42” x 68”

Offered is an extremely desirable thirty-six star flag.  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 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 stripes and canton of this flag are made of fine, blended wool.  The use of such wool for the stripes is unusual for a Civil War era flag and indicates that this was a premium flag (as opposed to one with regular wool stripes), probably intended for a wealthy or discerning customer. 

The stripes are individually cut and machine sewn together, the canton is machine sewn to the stripes, and the hoist is machine sewn to both the stripes and canton.  More specifically, the stripes, the canton, and the hoist are joined via treadle stitching.  Treadle stitching was a technical possibility beginning in the 1830s, but not a realistic possibility until the 1850s.  Treadle stitching became relatively common by the 1860s and was used in approximately half of flags made between 1861 and 1865, typically to sew the stripes, the canton, and/or the hoist. 

The stars of this flag are made of cotton.  They are sewn to both sides of the canton (i.e., double appliequed), using a lineal treadle stitch.  Lineal treadle stiches are most commonly found on flags dating between 1885 and 1895.  Prior to this time, stars were commonly applied by hand, and after this, they were commonly applied using a zig-zag stitch.  While lineal treadle stitches were sometimes used to sew the stars on Civil War flags, it is the exception, rather than rule.  The reason for its rarity in this era is simply a function of the available technology.  Prior to Singer’s introduction of the electric sewing machine in 1889, flag makers applying  a lineal stich had to place each star on the canton, fold its edges under, pump a treadle machine—and while doing all of this—properly move both the star and canton through it.  While this was not an impossible task, the introduction of the electric sewing machine made it much easier.  By 1895, most flag makers had transitioned away from the lineal stitch and to the zig-zag stitch, as its use provided the advantage of not having to fold the edges of the stars.

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. 

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: This flag was hand sewn to silk organza, and both were hand sewn to cotton fabric.  The silk organza provides a strong layer of protection and a professional appearance.  The flag, the silk organza, and the cotton fabric were then 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 Conservation Clear Acrylic (standard) or behind Optium Museum Acrylic (per request).   

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

Condition Report: This flag exhibits minor mothing and a tear near its hoist edge.  It otherwise in excellent condition and among the best-preserved examples of the Civil War era.  

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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