Antique American Flag with a 1776-1876 Star Pattern | A Masterpiece in Design | Colorado Statehood | Circa 1876

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1. 1776-1876 Antique Flag.jpg
2. 1776-1876 Antique Flag.jpg
4. 1776-1876 Antique Flag.jpg
3. 1776-1876 Antique Flag.jpg
5. 1776-1876 Antique Flag.jpg
6. US6932 - Press Dyeing 1849.JPG
7. Large Frames.JPG
8. X-Large Frames.JPG

Antique American Flag with a 1776-1876 Star Pattern | A Masterpiece in Design | Colorado Statehood | Circa 1876

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Price: Call 618-553-2291, or email info@bonsellamericana.com
Frame Size (H x L):
39.5” x 59”
Flag Size (H x L):
28” x 46”    

Offered is an antique flag with a 1776-1876 star pattern, in reference to America’s centennial.  The centennial inspired patriotism across the county and reunited its citizens following the Civil War.  Cities of all sizes hosted parades and celebrations, and buildings and homes were canvased in red, white, and blue with flags being the primary symbol of national pride.  Flags dating to the centennial exhibited a number of interesting designs, many of which included medallions and luminaries.  The 1776-1876 star pattern of this flag is a masterpiece in its design, and it is as rare as it is beautiful.   

This flag is made of a cotton and wool blend.  The inclusion of wool therein and the star pattern indicate that this flag was intended for use at Philadelphia’s Centennial International Exposition.  The inclusion of wool allowed this flag to survive the six month celebration.  In contrast, most parade flags of this era were made of either pure cotton or silk—both of which were cheaper, but less robust.  Philadelphia’s Centennial International Exposition was the most notable centennial celebration, and it hosted nearly 10 million visitors.  It included many extraordinary exhibits, including the introduction of the Corliss Steam Engine and Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.   

This flag was made by a process known as press dyeing.  Shown in the images above is an early press dyeing patent, issued in 1849.  Several other patents issued in the 19th century for similar, improved processes.  The invention described in the 1849 patent included using a dye vat in combination with a dyeing frame.  The dyeing frame was made, so as to prevent the dye from penetrating portions of the flag that did not need any color (e.g., the stars and/or white stripes).  Press dyeing never gained widespread use, as it tended to result in minor printing blemishes.   

The stars of this flag include five standard arms and five thin arms extending outwards from in between the standard arms.  This is the only flag that we are aware of with stars of this form. 

The “1776” includes thirty-eight stars.  The thirty-eight stars represent the inclusion of Colorado to the Union.  Colorado was admitted on August 1st, 1876 and this flag became official on July 4th, 1877.  Presidents Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, and Harrison all served under this flag.  Colorado became known as the “Centennial State,” a result of becoming official just twenty-eight days after the centennial.  The official star count for US flags in 1876 was the thirty-seven star flag.  However, it was common for flag makers to produce anticipatory flags in advance of their official date, making the thirty-eight star flag—and for historical reasons, the thirteen star flag—the most common flags flown during the centennial celebrations of 1876.       

The thirty-eight star flag was official until July 4th, 1890, the time at which the forty-three star flag became official and began to represent the inclusion of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Idaho to the Union.

The “1876” includes forty-three stars.  The “7” in “1776” includes ten stars, while the “8” in “1876” includes fifteen stars.  The fifteen stars (and forty-three total stars) may have been included out of anticipation of additional states being added to the Union.  In contrast, the forty-three stars may have been included for spacing consistency across the star pattern.   

The canton of this flag is made of a single piece of cotton and wool fabric, and the stripes are made of two separate pieces of the same cotton and wool fabric.  The hoist strip is made of twill weave cotton.  The different components are joined via treadle stitching.  A period rope is threaded through the hoist strip, such that the flag could be raised on a staff.   

This flag may have been made by John Holt or alternatively by the Horstmann Brothers.  Both Holt and the Horstmann Brothers were associated with Philadelphia’s Centennial International Exposition, and both were early adopters of press dyeing techniques.

An example of this flag was held in the Mastai Collection.  It went on to be offered as lot 109 in the October 10th, 2002 Sotheby’s Important Americana Auction.  Another example of this flag was also held in the Connelly Collection.  It went on to be offered as lot 136 in the May 23rd, 2002 Sotheby’s Important Americana Auction.  And yet another example of this flag is held in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.  It is featured as item 441 in the Threads of History, written by Herbert Ridgeway Collins, who was the curator of the Division of Political History at the Smithsonian Institute.  

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 X-Large Distressed Black with Silver Liner Frame.  However, it can be reframed and would look great using any one of Large or X-Large Frames, which are shown in the final two images.  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 exhibits some small holes and light stains.  It includes a tear across its stripes near the bottom fly end.  Overall, however, this is one of the best and brightest 1776-1876 flags in circulation.  

Collectability Level: The Extraordinary – Museum Quality Offerings
Date of Origin:
1876
Number of Stars:
38   
Associated War:
The Indian Wars (1860-1890)   
Associated State:
Colorado 

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