13 Star Antique Flag with 3-2-3-2-3 Star Pattern | Circa 1895-1910

13 Star Antique Flag - BONSELL | AMERICANA
265. 13 Star (Framed) (Photo Corrected) - Copy.jpg
13 Star Antique Flag - BONSELL | AMERICANA
265. 13 Star (Framed) (Photo Corrected) - Copy.jpg

13 Star Antique Flag with 3-2-3-2-3 Star Pattern | Circa 1895-1910


Frame Size (H x L): 29” x 39”
Flag Size (H x L): 21” x 30”

Offered is a stunning thirteen-star flag.  Its stripes and canton are made of wool.  Its stars—which are unusually large—are made of cotton and sewn to both sides of the canton (i.e., double appliqued), using a zig-zag stitch.  In August of 1889, Henry Bowman filed a patent application for the zig-zag stitch, a very distinct back-and-forth sewing method (see US 469,395, issued in 1892).  As stated in the patent's specification, the zig-zag stitch provides a practical and efficient means for fixing stars upon the field of a flag.  One advantage of the zig-zag stitch is that it can be used to bind the edges of roughly cut stars.  Mr. Bowman practiced his invention, and even marked the hoist of his flags with "Patented Feb.23.1892."  Despite this, many flag makers were undeterred, and Mr. Bowman had to bring a lawsuit against Walter DeGrauw and others for the alleged infringement of his patent.  Ultimately, Mr. Bowman's patent was found invalid based on similar stitching techniques in the prior art, further opening the flood gates for flag maker's to utilize the zig-zag stitch.  For more information, we highly recommend reading the entire legal opinion, as it provides a fascinating review of the state of the art in flag making in the 1880s.    

The filing date of the patent, 1889, provides a fantastic "not earlier than date" when one encounters this kind of stitching on a particular flag.  Generally speaking, however, it is most commonly found on flags dating to between 1895 and 1940, while in contrast, a lineal stitch is most commonly found on flags dating to between 1890 and 1895.  In the case of this flag, it was likely made between 1895 and 1910.  This estimate is based on the zig-zag stitch, the weave of the wool, its relatively short fly length, and its enlarged stars.

This flag’s stars are arranged in a 3-2-3-2-3 pattern.  This pattern, which looks like a diamond of stars surrounded by corner stars, is sometimes referred to as the Hopkinson pattern after Francis Hopkinson.  While no one knows for sure, it may have been the star pattern for the first flag (not the Betsy Ross pattern).  While it is clear that Betsy Ross made flags in in Philadelphia in the 1770's, there is no evidence that she made the first flag in the form of letters, articles, journals, or records.  Historians generally do not accept that Ross designed or made the first flag, and instead support that Hopkinson designed it.  Hopkinson was a member of the Continental Congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a lawyer.  The evidence supporting Hopkinson's role includes his claim to Congress, for payment, for having furnished the design of "the flag of the United States of America."  Hopkinson asked to be paid in "a Quarter Cask of public wine" and later asked to be paid in $1,440 in Continental paper.  Both payments, however, were refused by Congress.  Congress agreed that Hopkinson had a role in the design, but refused to pay him because he "consulted" other men.

The original use of the thirteen-star flag dates to June 14th, 1777, the time at which the Continental Congress adopted a resolution creating the first official flag.  The resolution stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.”  Thirteen-star flags were official from 1777-1795, but have been in use ever since. 

Small US Navy boats used it as the ensign from 1795 until 1916.  Thirteen-star flags were also flown at the time of George Washington’s death in 1799 and to celebrate the nation’s 50th anniversary in 1824.  They were also flown in 1824 in honor of General Lafayette’s return to the US for his nationwide tour.  Celebrations for his Revolutionary War service were held in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, along with many locations in the southern and western states. 

Further, thirteen-star flags were also common during the Mexican War in 1846-1848 and the Civil War in 1861-1865.  They were both relatively close in time to the revolution, and were very patriotic times, particularly during the Civil War time period when flag use became much more common than had ever previously been the case.  Thirteen-star flags were also flown during the centennial celebrations, which were held across the country and, most notably, in Philadelphia at the Centennial International Exhibition. 

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: The frame is gold in color and highly distressed.   

Condition Report: This flag has mothing throughout its canton and stripes.  Many collectors prefer flags that show their use and age.

Collectability Level: The Great – Perfect for Rising Collectors  
Date of Origin: 1895-1910
Number of Stars: 13
Associated War: Spanish-American War (1898)  
Associated State: Original 13 Colonies

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