26 Star Antique American Parade Flag | The Only Such Example That We Have Ever Encountered | Circa 1837-1845

26 Star Antique American Parade Flag
26 Star Antique US Parade Flag 2.jpg
26 Star Antique American Parade Flag
26 Star Antique US Parade Flag 2.jpg

26 Star Antique American Parade Flag | The Only Such Example That We Have Ever Encountered | Circa 1837-1845


Frame Size (H x L): 16.5” x 14.5”
Flag Size (H x L): 2.5” x 4 and Affixed to a 6” Staff

Offered is an extremely rare twenty-six star parade flag printed on glazed cotton and affixed to its original wooden staff.  The stars are arranged in a great medallion pattern, having a large center star, a rectangle of four stars surrounding the center star, a ring surrounding the rectangle, and two flanking stars in each corner of the canton.  This is the only twenty-six star flag that we have ever encountered in this particular style, and possibly the best parade flag that we have handled to date.   

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 thirteen or twenty-six stars, and the twenty-six star parade flags are available in just a few extremely rare designs other than the design being offered.  The first design has a canted grand luminary star pattern.  An excellent example of this design was held in the Mastai collection and sold by Sotheby’s in 2002.  The second design includes four rows of six stars and two outlying stars to the left thereof, the result being a star pattern that looks like a pair of sideways U’s.  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.  Excellent examples of these flags are illustrated in the Threads of History as items 134-143 and 176-188.  All of these flags—whether of the first, second, or remaining designs—are square in their proportions, likely to be in parallel with period militia flags and regimental banners.    

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: The antique frame includes three separate layers: an outer walnut layer, a middle gold layer, and an inner decorated gold layer.  It is a superb frame that dates to between 1860 and 1890.  

Condition Report: As shown in the images, the flag exhibits some fading and some staining.  Though not known for sure, it appears that a small piece of the bottom of the staff may have been broken off.   

Collectability Level: The Best – Perfect for Advanced Collectors   
Date of Origin: 1837-1846  
Number of Stars: 26
Associated State: Michigan 

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