13 Star Antique Yacht Flag | Circa 1895-1926
13 Star Antique Yacht Flag | Circa 1895-1926
Frame Size (H x L): 32” x 42”
Flag Size (H x L): 22” x 32”
Offered is a thirteen-star flag with a beautiful patina. This flag is referred to as a private US yacht ensign or a yacht flag, and it was used in place of a traditional US flag on private pleasure craft in US waters. Such flags include a canted anchor surrounded by a circular wreath of thirteen stars. Prior to modern income tax laws, the federal government derived much of its revenue from tariffs and customs levied on foreign goods entering US harbors. As the popularity of private yachting increased, customs officials were spending more and more time inspecting yachts that were not involved in commerce. To alleviate this unnecessary burden, in 1848, Congress officially designated the use of the US yacht ensign for private vessels that were properly licensed by the Treasury Department. Upon licensing and flying the US yacht ensign, private vessels could then enjoy the exemption from customs procedures.
The US yacht ensign was never meant to replace the national ensign, but was rather meant to be used in addition to the standard national ensign, the yacht ensign being on the masthead and the national ensign being on the stern or gaff. Due to their similarity, however, many private vessels use only the US yacht ensign. The law enacted in 1848 was revoked in 1980. Despite this, use of the US yacht ensign still continues today as a result of custom and its beauty.
This flag’s stripes and canton are made of wool. The stars and anchor are made of cotton and are 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 a “method of making flags,” or more particularly for the zig-zag stitch (see US 469,395). The zig-zag stitch is a very distinct back-and-forth sewing technique, which 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 (and anchors, as in this case). 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 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: This offering is in our Large Black and Gold Frame. However, it can be reframed and would look great using any one of our Large Frames, which are shown in the final image. 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 has some minor mothing, but is generally in excellent condition.
Collectability Level: The Great – Perfect for Rising Collectors
Date of Origin: 1895-1926
Number of Stars: 13
Associated State: Original 13 Colonies