34 Star Antique Flag Cover with Great Star and Union Overprint | Circa 1861-1890

34 Star Antique Flag Cover with Great Star and Union Overprint
34 Star Antique Flag Cover with Great Star and Union Overprint 2.jpg
34 Star Antique Flag Cover with Great Star and Union Overprint
34 Star Antique Flag Cover with Great Star and Union Overprint 2.jpg

34 Star Antique Flag Cover with Great Star and Union Overprint | Circa 1861-1890


Frame Size (H x L): 9” x 11”
Flag Size (H x L): 3” x 5.5”

Offered is a thirty-four star flag cover (i.e., envelope) with a UNION overprint on the canton.  The inclusion of writing on a canton—in contrast to on the stripes—is a rare and desirable, particularly when it makes some kind of reference to the Civil War.  Flag covers of this particular form were made during the Civil War and into the 1880s.    

The stars on this flag are arranged in a "Great Star" pattern, one of the rarest and most beautiful patterns encountered in antique flags.  The Great Star pattern is a large star made of smaller stars.  The smaller stars may be a variety of sizes, and may be canted in a various directions.  Such a pattern was perfectly acceptable, as prior to President Taft's Executive Order 1556 in 1912, flag makers were free to place the stars however they wished. 

US Naval Captain Samuel Reid is credited with designing the Great Star pattern in 1818.  Captain Reid was an officer in the US Navy and commanded the privateer General Armstrong during the War of 1812.  Andrew Jackson credited Captain Reid's heroism in delaying the British Squadron in the Battle of Fayal, and aiding in General Jackson's defense of New Orleans.  Captain Reid and his crew were greeted as heroes. 

The Second Flag Act, passed in 1794, stated that the flag would have 15 stars and 15 stripes, in response to Vermont and Kentucky being added to the Union.  Knowing that this approach would not be sustainable, with Captain Reid's help, Congress passed the Flag Act of 1818, specifying that the flag should only have 13 stripes, but should have 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. 

Captain Reid played a significant role in the Flag Act of 1818, and recommended a basic design of 13 horizontal alternating stripes in honor of the 13 colonies, and a star in honor of each state.  He further recommended several potential star patterns, including 20 stars in the shape of a larger star for general use.  Reid suggested this pattern to make the flag consistent and easily identifiable, particularly at long distances and at sea.  His star pattern recommendation was not ultimately included in the Act, nor was any star pattern, but Captain Reid is universally credited with designing the Great Star pattern.  Its use peaked in the 1840s, but it was also used during the Civil War and occasionally during Centennial Celebrations.  Its last known commercial use was on a 38 star flag.

The thirty-four star flag represents the inclusion of Kansas to the Union.  Kansas was admitted on January 29th, 1861, and this flag became official on July 4th, 1861.  President Lincoln served, and the Civil War was fought, under this star count.  Many thirty-four star flags predate the first shots of the Civil War in 1861, as flag makers began producing them upon the admission of the Kansas, instead of the time at which the flag was officially admitted to the Union later in the same year.  The thirty-four star flag was official until July 4th 1863, the time at which the thirty-five star flag became official and began to represent the inclusion of West Virginia in the Union.  Thirty-four and thirty-five star flags were the official flags for the majority of the Civil War, and for this reason, both are extremely desirable.   

Conservation Process: The flag is sandwiched between cotton rag board and a UV resistant acrylic. 

Frame: The antique frame is includes an outer walnut layer and an inner gilt layer.  It dates to between 1860 and 1890.    

Condition Report: This paper flag exhibits some fading.  It presents beautifully, particularly in combination with its antique frame.

Collectability Level: The Great – Perfect for Rising Collectors  
Date of Origin: 1861-1890
Number of Stars: 34
Associated War: The Civil War (1861-1865)  
Associated State: Kansas

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