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One of the most fanciful designs on the canton of an American flag is known as the medallion pattern.  Medallions typically consist of circular wreaths of stars that typically surround a central star.  Often times, medallion patterns also contain corner stars as well.  The central star is frequently larger than the rest of the stars, and is usually considered to represent the state whose statehood is represented by the star count on the flag.  The corner stars may also be larger in size.  The wreaths of stars may be concentric and well aligned, or in some cases somewhat random.  Sometimes the wreaths are circular, and sometimes they are oval.  In general, medallion patterns are highly valued by collectors because of their beauty and relative scarcity.  Medallion patterns became popular during the Civil War period, though some printed parade flags with star counts of 31 or 32 in the medallion pattern are known.  They were especially popular during the Centennial in 1876, but by the time the star count reached 45, medallion patterns all but disappeared, and were replaced by the row patterns that we are most familiar with on our flags today.

Medallion patterns are found on both sewn flags and on printed parade flags.  Below are some examples of medallion variations found on the stars and stripes.

27 Stars, 1845-1846.   This flag of 27 stars, entirely hand sewn and made of cotton, features an elliptical medallion with 8 stars in the inner wreath, 14 stars in the outer wreath, and one star in each corner.  Flags with 27 stars are exceptionally rare.  They were official for only one year, 1845-1846, and represent Florida statehood.
 
34 Stars, 1861-1863.   This spectacular Civil War flag features an inner wreath of 10 stars, an outer wreath of 15 stars, and 2 stars in each corner.  The whimsical placement of the two stars in altering directions gives the flag a beautiful pinwheel effect and gives a strong sense of motion.



 
34 Stars, 1861-1863.  This silk Civil War flag is most likely a Union company presentation battle flag, though its specific unit history is still being researched.  The beautiful hand sewn stars are arranged in a double medallion surrounding a large center star with three stars in each corner, forming a parenthetical frame around the medallion.  Even fading to the blue on both sides and wear on the fly end of the flag indicates that the flag was flown outdoors for some period of time.
35 Stars, 1863-1865.   This Civil War era homemade flag, with 35 stars, features a unique pattern of stars.  The large center star and four large corner stars anchor the canton.  A wreath of seven stars surrounds the center star.  Two arcs of four stars each bracket the center wreath.  Between the corner stars are 3 and 3 (top and bottom) and 4 and 4 (left and right).  Flags of 35 stars represent West Virginia statehood, when West Virginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War.
 
35 Stars, 1863-1865.  This Civil War era flag was made in Baltimore by Jabez W. Loane.  Its beautiful double medallion is characterized by carefully aligned stars in the wreaths, where the maker took great care to ensure that the "head" of each star was precisely pointed toward the center, leaving the two "arms" of the stars to align with each other into a well formed circle.  This trait strongly supports an attribution of the flag to Loane, joining a rare handful of flags of a the same size, star count and design that have survived.
35 Stars, 1863-1865.  This printed flag was produced at the end of the Civil War to commemorate the battles fought by the 71st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  The flag's medallion features an inner wreath of 12 stars and an open center, in the style of some of the official cavalry pennants of the period.  Most likely on the cavalry pennants the center of the medallion was left open in order to add a custom unit designation letter, as seen on the marker of the 2nd U.S. Infantry Regiment pictured below.
36 Stars, 1865-1867.   This post-Civil War flag was sewn by Mrs. Emma McNutts for the election of President Grant.  Although it's debatable whether or not the pattern is truly a medallion, due to the randomness of the stars, hidden within the flag is a rare triple medallion with an inner wreath of 6, an outer wreath of 12, a third outer wreath of 12, and a star in each corner.

 
36 Stars, 1865-1867.   This fanciful medallion of 36 stars, with is big, bold center star and whimsical puffy rings, was made during the Civil War, and has specific provenance to the family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania who made it.  A note accompanying the flag reads: "During the Civil War when Lancaster, Pa. was in danger of the Southern army marching into Lancaster via York, (before Gettysburg), Anna Louise Kurtz Baumgardner (Mother's mother) got her young daughters (Mother + Aunt Anna Cross) and their friends to make this flag out of materials she had--to keep the girls busy and less frightened." "The flagpole is in the laundry."
37 Stars, 1867-1877.  A beautiful 37 star medallion flag with a haloed central star and three stars in each corner.  The canton has faded to a dusty blue, and is a striking color, in contrast with the still bright red stripes.  The stripes are treadle stitched and the canton, which is clamp dyed, is sewn into the flag.
 
37 Stars, 1867-1877.  This spectacular 37 star medallion flag features two bold slightly oval rings of stars.  One of the most striking attributes of the medallion is the way that the stars are nested and packed tightly in the oval wreaths.  The flag dates to the period of Reconstruction following the end of the Civil War, and most likely was produced for the American Centennial in 1876.
 
37 Stars, 1867-1877.  An extremely rare pattern for a sewn flag, this 37 star flag combines the medallion pattern style, with a large wreath and four corner stars, with the "grand luminary" or "great star" pattern on a single flag.  It is the only sewn flag that I'm aware of that so clearly combines these two great styles of early American flags.
38 Stars, 1876-1890.  This Centennial era medallion of 38 stars features a large center star, two oval medallions, and two radiating stars in each corner of the canton.  The outer wreath of seventeen stars surrounds the inner thirteen stars, which represent the original thirteen colonies.
38 Stars, 1876-1890.  This is an official U.S. Army Flank Marker of 38 stars, originally belonging to the U.S. 2nd Infantry Regiment.  The beautiful double medallion is made of hand embroidered stars on silk, of the finest quality workmanship.  The large embroidered 2 regimental unit designation is also embroidered.  These flags are extremely rare.  Only a few of these fragile silk flank markers survived their use in the field.  The flag most likely saw service in the Oregon and Idaho Territories, and in Nebraska and the western plains.
38 Stars, 1876-1890.  This beautiful sewn flag features a rare triple medallion in which all stars are the same size.  The center star is surrounded by a wreath of 6 stars, followed by a wreath of 11 stars, and an outer wreath of 16 stars, with four corner stars.  A masterpiece of Centennial Era flag making.
38 Stars, 1876-1890.   This printed parade flag of 38 stars in the medallion pattern is one of the largest of its kind, at more than 50 inches in length.  38 star flags in this style with two outliers in the top right and bottom right corners, were made in various sizes, most typically in small hand-waving size.  They were popular during the Centennial in 1876, in anticipation of Colorado statehood, granted on August 1, 1876.
38 Stars, 1876-1890.  This medallion pattern from the Centennial Era features a very rare double oval wreath of stars surrounding a spectacular large center star along with four corner stars.  The inner wreath of stars numbers 13, representing the original 13 colonies, and the large center star represents Colorado.  This particular flag descended through the family of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's youngest sister, Mrs. May Cody Decker.
38 Stars, 1876-1890.  This gorgeous oval medallion features an extremely rare combination of four sizes of stars.  The central star and four corner stars are the same size, with three progressively smaller sizes of stars arranged in wreaths around the center.  The flag, which is entirely hand sewn, is a masterpiece of Centennial Era American Flag making.
38 Stars, 1876-1890.  Another masterpiece flag from the American Centennial, this flag consists of a medallion of 38 silk stars on a silk canton.  Five spokes radiate from the center star, and three stars sit in each wedge between the spokes.  The dates "1776-1876", clear evidence that the flag was made to celebrate the American Centennial, are beautifully hand embroidered in gold thread, along with the name and home town of the maker, "A. Whipple, Albany NY".
38 Stars, 1876-1890.  This rare medallion, also from the period of the American Centennial, was made in Fairfield County, Ohio.  The flag is made of cotton fabric, stitched with a treadle machine.  The flag's medallion exhibits several exceptionally rare traits, such as the presence of four corner stars, variable sized stars and a large center star.  It descended in the family of Willabe Boyer who settled his farm near Canal Winchester, Ohio in the mid 1800's.
39 Stars, 1875.  The 39 star count is considered unofficial, and only a very small number of 39 star flags of pieced and sewn construction are known to exist.  Of those, only a handful, perhaps less than five, have a star pattern other than straight rows of stars.  This rare medallion of gilt stars on silk is the only medallion I'm aware of that has three center stars.  It is one of the rarest and most beautiful among known examples of the 39 star count.  
42 Stars, 1889, Unofficial.  This beautiful military-grade flag with a double oval medallion pattern originally started as a 38 star flag, to which four center stars were added.  Most likely, the flag was made by a contracted manufacturer to provide flags to military units.  When four states entered the Union in 1889, the flag maker updated this flag, prior to selling it.  Difference in highlighting on the edges of the four center stars and slightly brighter gilt, compared to the other 38 stars, is clear evidence of this.
44 Stars, 1890.  This rare later period triple medallion flag is in extraordinary condition and form.  With the exception of one missing tie at the top left corner of the flag, it is completely intact, with all of its original golden fringe and virtually no signs of aging.  The presence of the silk ties and the gold fringe are evidence that the flag, which was professionally manufactured, was most likely made for military or official use.  The flag represents Wyoming statehood which took affect on July 10, 1890, and became official for a period of 5 years from July 4, 1891 to July 4, 1895.
48 Stars, 1912.  Only one of two flags, along with IAS-00002 below, that I am aware of with a medallion pattern in the 48 star count.  This beautiful medallion features a large center star and four large corner stars, each of which is flanked by two smaller stars.  It is one of the few examples of the medallion pattern with three corner stars.  Note how the stars are nestled together and rotated and fitted to form nearly solid rings of stars.  A beautiful and exuberant homemade example.
48 Stars, 1912.  One of the last of the great medallions flags.  Flags such as this fell out of use following President Taft's Executive Order of 1912 which stipulated that stars would henceforth be displayed in rows.  This flag is one of the latest medallion flags known, and ranks among the most spectacular among all medallion flags from any period.  Click here to read more about this flag.
 

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