Extremely Desirable 26 Star Antique Flag | The Earliest Known Parade Flag | Michigan Statehood | Circa 1837-1845

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6. Large Distressed Gold.JPG
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8. Large Frames.JPG
1. 26 Star Antique Flag.jpg
2. 26 Star Antique Flag.jpg
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6. Large Distressed Gold.JPG
7. Medium Frames.JPG
8. Large Frames.JPG

Extremely Desirable 26 Star Antique Flag | The Earliest Known Parade Flag | Michigan Statehood | Circa 1837-1845

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Price: Call 618-553-2291, or email info@bonsellamericana.com
Frame Size (H x L): 33.5” x 40.5”  
Flag Size (H x L):
22.5” x 29.5”

Offered is an extremely desirable twenty-six star flag printed on cotton.  It is the earliest known printed parade flag (along with a few other remaining examples in this style).  Its stars are arranged in a 6-1-6-6-1-6 pattern, in which the stars in the second and fifth rows are offset to the left of the other rows.  In combination, the star pattern is similar to a pair of sideways facing “U-shapes” that open to the right.

The canton of this flag rests on a red stripe, instead of a white stripe as generally is standard.  This red stripe may be referred to as a war stripe or a blood stripe.  In some instances, the war stripe was purposely placed under the canton and symbolized that the nation was at war.  In other instances, a red stripe under the canton may have just been placed there on accident, as someone not familiar with the details of the flag had a 50-50 chance of placing the canton and stripes correctly.  With respect to this flag, the latter explanation is likely the accurate one.

Flags with blood stripes tend to have unusually shaped cantons.  When there is a blood stripe, the canton tends to be a little too tall or a little too short, depending on which red stripe it is stacked on top of.  In the case of this flag, the canton is taller and wider than expected.  Further, the overall flag is square in its proportions, perhaps to be in parallel with period militia flags and regimental banners. 

Flags predating the Civil War (1861-1865) are the rarest and most desirable of all US flags.  Prior to the Civil War, Americans did not typically display flags for patriotic purposes, and even the military did not regularly display it.  This is because it was not until 1834 that the army field artillery was permitted to carry the traditional US flag, and not until 1841 that regiments carried it.  Most flags made prior to the Civil War were used to mark ships and were large in scale.  For these reasons, flags made prior to the Civil War account for only around 1-in-100 flags made in the 19th century, and examples small enough to display are even more scarce.  It was not until 1861 that flags were produced in large numbers, and private citizens began waving them in public and displaying them at home.

The earliest parade flags include either (1) thirteen stars to recognize the original thirteen states or (2) twenty-six stars to recognize the addition of Michigan to the Union.  In total, there are thought to be approximately twenty remaining twenty-six star flags.  They are available in only a few different designs other than the design being offered.  The first such design has a canted grand luminary star pattern.  An example of this design was held in the Mastai collection and sold through Sotheby’s in 2002.  The second such design is similar to the design being offered here, but with sideways facing “U-shapes” that open to the left.  The remaining designs are campaign flags for the William Henry Harrison campaign in 1840, the Henry Clay campaign in 1844, and the James Polk campaign in the same year.  Examples of these flags are illustrated, in the Threads of History, as items 134-143 and 176-188. 

As noted above, the twenty-six star flag represents the inclusion of Michigan to the Union.  Michigan was admitted on June 26th, 1837, and this flag became official on July 4th, 1837.  The Michigan Territory first petitioned for statehood in 1833.  However, the U.S. Congress intentionally delayed its approval, in part because including Michigan in the Union would upset the balance between the Northern states and the Southern states, and in part because of Michigan’s boundary dispute with Ohio over Toledo.  The issue related to the balance between the states soon passed, as Arkansas entered the Union at about the same time as Michigan ultimately did.  And the issue related to the boundary dispute also passed, largely because Congress made Michigan’s statehood contingent on settling the boundary dispute.  Ultimately, Michigan compromised with Ohio, and Michigan formally became a state, as noted above, in 1837.         

Presidents Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and James K. Polk served under the twenty-six star flag.  It was the official flag until July 4th, 1845, the time at which the twenty-seven star flag became official and began to represent the inclusion of Florida 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 Conservation Clear Acrylic (standard) or behind Optium Museum Acrylic (per request).

Frame: This offering is in our Large Distressed Gold and Black Frame.  However, it can be reframed and would look great using any one of our Medium or 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: As shown in the images, the flag exhibits fading, staining, and small holes. 

Collectability Level: The Extraordinary – Museum Quality Offerings    
Date of Origin: 1837-1846  
Number of Stars: 26 
Associated State: Michigan

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