Extremely Rare 35 Star Antique Flag with Haloed Medallion | Likely Owned by Civil War Era Auctioneer, William M Newhall | Discovered in Redwood City, California | Circa 1863-1865

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Extremely Rare 35 Star Antique Flag with Haloed Medallion | Likely Owned by Civil War Era Auctioneer, William M Newhall | Discovered in Redwood City, California | Circa 1863-1865

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Price: Call 618-553-2291, or email info@bonsellamericana.com 
Frame Size (H x L): 30.5” x 41”
Flag Size (H x L): 20” x 30”

Offered is an extremely rare thirty-five star antique flag.  This flag was discovered in Redwood City, California in 1970.  More specifically, this flag was discovered in an abandoned home, located on the east side of Franklin Street between what was originally called Jackson and Monroe Streets.  The house was likely built in the 1890s.  The previous owner was the first person in the home after it was abandoned, just prior to it being demolished.

The home included a number of documents dating to between the 1860s and the early 1900s.  The documents implied that this flag was previously owned by the William M. Newhall Family of San Francisco, California.  Mr. Newhall owned an auction house in San Francisco in the 1860s.  Research indicates that one of Mr. Newhall’s children likely constructed the home where this flag was found. 

The stars of this flag are arranged in a medallion pattern.  This particular medallion includes a large star in the middle, two rings of stars surrounding the large star, and a flanking star in each corner surrounding the rings.  The majority of medallion pattern flags date to between 1861 and 1876.  Beginning in the 1890s, medallion patterns became less common, and linear arrangements became the norm.  Why this occurred is unclear, as flag makers had the freedom to place the stars however they liked until 1912, when President Taft issued Executive Order 1556 establishing the arrangement of the stars into rectilinear rows.        

The large canted star in the middle is sometimes referred to as a “center star.”  A center star is different than a great star, a term used to describe a star made up of smaller stars.  A center star is almost always positioned in the very middle of the canton.  The rest of the stars are then positioned around the center star, and form various different patterns.  The center star represents the newest state added to the Union (e.g., West Virginia in the case of this thirty-five star flag).  

The large center star includes two parts: a bold center star and a surrounding halo.  Haloed flags are extremely attractive and collectible.  The maker of this flag is unknown, but it is clear that the same company produced most, if not all, haloed flags, including flags with thirty, thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, and forty-two stars.  In our experience, the thirty-five star variation is by far the rarest of the haloed flags.    

As noted above, the thirty-five star flag represents the inclusion of West Virginia to the Union.  West Virginia was admitted on June 20th, 1863, and this flag became official on July 4th 1863.  The thirty-five star flag is the only flag that (1) represents a state admitted during the Civil War time period, and that also (2) became official during the Civil War.  Because it was official for a short time period—around 18 months—and because so many flags were produced in 1861 and 1862, thirty-five star flags are scarce and the most desirable of the Civil War counts. 

The thirty-five star flag was official until July 4th, 1865, the time at which the thirty-six star flag official and began to represent the inclusion of Nevada in the Union. 

The following word-for-word notes were kindly provided by the previous owner:

The Parade Flag was found by [REDACTED FOR PRIVACY] in Redwood City, California in 1973. 

Redwood City is a Silicon Valley city with about 75,000 residents located about halfway between San Francisco (the City) and San Jose on the San Francisco Peninsula. Redwood City grew around the head of a tidal slough initially called el Embarcadero on the Mexican land grant Rancho de las Pulgas (ranch of the fleas). Hides and tallow were likely exported and manufactured luxury goods imported through el Embarcadero during the 1830’s and 40s on small shallow draft sailing craft. This was the manner of assembling cargos from the ranchos around the bay and its tributaries for Boston traders so eloquently described in Richard Henry Dana’s "Two Years Before the Mast".

During the gold rush el Embarcadero suddenly became very active in the shipping of redwood lumber and shingles cut in the nearby coast range. These commodities were in considerable demand and a village sprung up at this key shipping point. Its residents named the town Redwood City.  The voters chose to form a separate county (San Mateo) in 1856 from southern part of San Francisco County to avoid the corruption of the City. As the largest settlement in the new county, safely removed from the City, they selected Redwood City as the county seat.

The San Francisco and San Jose Railroad was constructed through Redwood City and completed in 1864. While this relegated the port to shipping of bulky commodities, it provided a quick and convenient connection to San Francisco. Many wealthy San Franciscans established estates on the Peninsula although Redwood City remained a primarily a working-class town.

In the 1890’s Redwood City was a market town of about 2,000 residents. The principal industry, aside from county business and being a service center for surrounding farms and estates, was tanning leather. The S H Frank Tannery, located on Redwood Creek downstream from the town, benefited from its location on the slough where it shipped and received bulk materials including tan oak bark on scow schooners.

Redwood City’s weather is superior to San Francisco’s with the coast range providing shelter from marine fog. This eventually led to the community selecting “Climate Best by Government Test” as its slogan. It increasingly became a place of choice to settle outside of the City.  Initially the rate of growth was modest but this accelerated considerably after the 1906 earthquake and fire.  The railroad provided quick access to the City and outside world.

The home where the flag was found was built during this era of migration out of the City. It was located on the east side of Franklin Street between was called Jackson and Monroe Streets on the 1897 Sanborn Map (sheet 9). It was on a sloping site on the bank of a small tributary of Redwood Creek with a walkout basement at the rear facing the railroad. The house is immediately east of the Madison Street alignment. (see the attached map). The site is shown vacant on the 1891 map so it is reasonable to conclude it was built in the mid-nineties. It was a rather nondescript single-story frame house virtually devoid of any period architectural ornament.

We were fortunate enough to be the first in the home after it was abandoned and about to be demolished.  The basement was a time capsule with all manner of household goods dating mostly from the 1895 to 1905 time period. The portion of the residence that was occupied just prior to abandonment still had a 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition calendar pined to the wall!

Theory: The flag comes from the William M Newhall Family of San Francisco California and was used there during the Civil War.

Based on ephemera found with the flag, there is strong evidence of its association with the Wm M Newhall family.  William had an auction house in San Francisco in the 1860s. Blank billheads were found with the flag.  Family correspondence and other documents from the 1860’s were also found with the flag.  Scans of these are included with this narrative. 

Based on what was found, and the apparent long-term association of the Newhall name with the property, the home was likely constructed for one of William’s children, possibly C. A. Newhall (Charles?). A certificate of appointment to the National Guard of California was found indicating: C.A. Newhall appointed as Corporal of Company B Sixth Infantry Battalion Third Brigade on October 31, 1887. Research into Redwood City business directories from the 1890’s and 1900’s will likely verify Newhall association with Redwood City and the house.

William M Newhall likely immigrated to San Francisco in the 1850’s and additional research can verify this statement particularly through study of business directories in the 1850-1870 period. It seems from correspondence, his wife Emogine (?) joined him in the 1860’s and they had a family (two sons) during this period.  William appears to have come from the Boston area perhaps Saugus or Wakefield.

I am uncertain of any direct relation (brother, cousin?) with Henry Mayo (HM) Newhall, another well-known California immigrant from the early 1850’s.  HM has a significant presence in California history as owner of a prominent and very successful auction house in San Francisco, in the era prior to completion of the transcontinental railroad, He was president of the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad.  HM’s story and the history of the Newhall Land and Farming Company is told in “A California Legend” by Ruth Waldo Newhall 1992.

I spoke with Ruth in 1986 during the time I was the Company Architect for Newhall Land and Farming Company in Valencia.  She and her husband Scott Newhall (former publisher of the SF Chronical, great grandson of HM and an all-around interesting fellow in his own right) lived in a grand Victorian house in Piru California about 20 miles west of Valencia.

Ruth was not aware of a connection between William M and HM Newhall. Her research focused on HM and his descendants. The shared name, Boston area origins, and auction business seem to suggest these men were related. Additional research can either prove or disprove the connection. One of HM’s sons was named William Mayo Newhall.

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. 

Frame: This flag is in an antique oak frame.  It is an outstanding and substantive frame.    

Condition Report: This flag includes stains near its fly end.  Most notably, this flag includes a gray vertical stain and yellow stains to the right thereof.  This flag was likely rolled up and kept in storage.  The fly end of the flag was on the outside of the roll, which caused the right side of the flag to become stained.  At the same time, the left side of the flag was protected inside of the roll.  These stains are age appropriate and typical of rolled flags.  Many of our clients prefer flags that show these signs of age.     

Collectability Level: The Extraordinary – Museum Quality Offerings
Date of Origin: 1863-1865  
Number of Stars: 35   
Associated War: Civil War (1861-1865)
Associated State: West Virginia  

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