39 Star Antique Flag with Canted Stars | Never an Official Star Count | Circa 1876-1889

39 Star Antique Flag with Canted Stars
39 Star Antique Flag 2.jpg
39 Star Antique Flag with Canted Stars
39 Star Antique Flag 2.jpg

39 Star Antique Flag with Canted Stars | Never an Official Star Count | Circa 1876-1889


Frame Size (H x L): 12” x 14”
Flag Size (H x L): 6” x 8”

Offered is a thirty-nine star parade flag made of cotton.  The stars are sporadically arranged in a 7-6-7-6-7-6 pattern, and tend to be canted to around the 11:00 position.  The stars are folksy in their appearance, in that they each tend to be unique with arms that shift every which way.  

Thirty-nine star flags are an oddity in that their star count was never official.  They were made at two different times, initially in 1876 and later in 1889.  In 1876, before the admission of Colorado, flag makers speculated that an additional territory would also be admitted therewith.  Because of this, some flag makers went from making thirty-seven star flags to thirty-nine star versions in 1876 (e.g., in patriotic centennial quilts).  Instead, what actually occurred was only Colorado was admitted, and the flag went from thirty-seven stars to thirty-nine in 1876. 

Later, in 1889, Congress considered adding the Dakota Territory as a single state, and based on this, some flag makers made anticipatory thirty-nine star flags.  What happened, however, was that the Dakota Territory was then split it into two states: North Dakota and South Dakota, and they were both admitted on November 2nd, 1889.  This unexpectedly increased the star count, in 1889, from thirty-eight stars to forty stars, not to mention the unexpected increase from forty stars to forty-three stars this same year (i.e., the unexpected inclusion of Montana, Washington, and Idaho).  The Flag Act of 1818 specified that the addition of each star should be on the Fourth of July following a state’s admission to the Union.  Because North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Idaho were all admitted in 1889, the official star count of the official US flag increased from thirty-eight to forty-three in just a single year.  Despite this, flag makers made thirty-nine star anticipatory flags based on incorrect assumptions of how and when new states would be admitted 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 comprises two parts, a walnut outer layer and a gilded inner layer.  It dates to the between 1860 and 1890.  

Condition Report: The flag has some minor staining across its canton and stripes.  Many collectors prefer flags that show their age and patina.  

Collectability Level: The Good – Perfect for Beginning Collectors and Gifts  
Date of Origin: 1876-1889
Number of Stars: 39   
Associated War: Indian Wars (1860-1890)   
Associated State: North Dakota  

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