Rare 15 Star Antique Flag | Made to Glorify the South or Specifically Kentucky | Kentucky Statehood | Circa 1863-1865

15 Star Antique Flag
15 Star Antique Flag
15 Star Antique Flag
15 Star Antique Flag

Rare 15 Star Antique Flag | Made to Glorify the South or Specifically Kentucky | Kentucky Statehood | Circa 1863-1865


Price: Call 618-553-2291, or email info@bonsellamericana.com
Frame Size (H x L): 14” x 16.5”
Flag Size (H x L):
5” x 7.5”

Offered is a fifteen star antique flag.  It is printed on glazed cotton, and there are thought to be fewer than twenty in circulation.  Its stars are arranged in a medallion pattern, in which there is a large middle star, a ring of ten small stars, and four flanking stars.  The ring of small stars surround the large middle star, and the flanking stars surround the ring (i.e., one flanking star in each corner).  The large star in the middle is referred to as a “center star,” and it is canted to the 1:00 position.  The center star represents the newest state added to the Union (e.g., Kentucky in the case of this fifteen star flag). 

The stars of this flag are pointy and folksy, and they are tightly packed onto the canton.  Although the maker of this flag is unknown, these distinctly shaped stars are common to a family of flags that originated from the same workshop.  The maker of this flag made six star counts in this same style: seven, thirteen, fifteen, twenty-nine, thirty-three, and thirty-five.  The seven star flags were made to celebrate the first seven states to secede from the Union, while the thirteen star flags were made to celebrate the original thirteen states.  The fifteen star flags were likely made to glorify the South or specifically Kentucky, as discussed in detail below.  And the twenty-nine, thirty-three, and thirty-five star flags were made to celebrate the latest states added to the Union (Iowa, Oregon, and West Virginia, respectively).  

The First Flag Act, passed in 1777, stated that the flag would have thirteen stars and thirteen stripes.  Later, 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 (i.e., adding both stars and stripes), Congress passed the Flag Act of 1818, specifying that the flag should have thirteen stripes and 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.  Flags that date to the period of the Second Flag Act (1794-1818) are close to nonexistent.  One of the few remaining examples is the Star Spangled Banner, which flew at Fort McHenry and became the inspiration for the Star Spangled Banner.  Fifteen star flags that are specifically related to Kentucky (1792-1796) are even rarer yet.     

The appearance and construction of the flag point to a time frame between 1860 and approximately 1880.  In particular, the stripes of this flag are slightly orange, which generally points to this period (i.e., madder was often used as the dye from 1860-1880).  However, we are able to date this flag to the narrower time of 1863-1865, as a group of these fifteen star flags was found with a group of thirty-five star flags.  They were identical in construction.  From this, we can conclude that fifteen star flags of this style date to the same period as the thirty-five star flags of this style.  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 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. 

There are two theories that may explain the meaning of this fifteen star flag.  The first theory is that the fifteen stars represent the South.  The first theory is logical, because there were fifteen states that aligned with the South during the Civil War.  The first theory is further logical, because the maker of this flag also made seven star flags, which were made to represent the first group of states to secede.  The second theory is that the fifteen stars represent the fifteenth state, Kentucky.  The second theory is logical, because the group of fifteen star flags referenced above was found in Ohio.  The proximity of Ohio to Kentucky indicates that these flags may have been made for shipment thereto.   

Regardless of which theory is correct, this flag is a collector favorite.  For most, it is the only option for owning a nineteenth century of this star count. 

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).

This flag is in a three-tiered antique frame.  The outer tier is made of walnut, and the inner tiers are gold.  It is an outstanding frame and dates to between 1860 and 1880.      

Condition Report: As shown in the images, this flag exhibits stains throughout its surface, the most notable of which are across the canton, under the canton, and along the right edge.  Still, it presents well.  

Collectability Level: The Best – Perfect for Advanced Collectors    
Date of Origin: 1861-1865  
Number of Stars: 15
Associated State: Kentucky   

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