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This flag is a very rare pieced-and-sewn example of the American Civil Flag, also known as the Revenue Cutter Flag. Revenue Cutter flags of any era are very scarce.  The Treasury Department only operated a relatively small number of vessels in the American Revenue Cutter fleet, and this style of American flag was only used in the official capacity as the ensign of this fleet.  Of the very few examples of these flags that have survived, each are distinct and exciting to behold in part because they often have uniquely shaped and very folky depictions of the American Eagle from the Coat of Arms of the United States. On this example, the wings of the eagle are almost bat-like, and very stylized.  The eagle and stars are sewn using a zig-zag stitch which would indicate construction circa 1895.  The flag is in excellent condition, and is one of the finest of the very few examples of the type that I have seen.  While this flag may appear unusual to many Americans, it design is, along with the traditional Stars and Stripes pattern, an official design of the American flag.  Known as the Civil Flag of the United States, and also as the Revenue Cutter flag, it is the precursor to today's modern official Coast Guard flag.  In 1790, during George Washington's first presidential administration, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton petitioned Congress to build and commission 10 vessels, known as Revenue Cutters, for the purposes of reducing piracy and ensuring that shipping tariffs were levied and collected from merchant ships arriving at American ports.  Congress approved the measure, and on March 2, 1799, they passed the Customs Administration Act, which established the law under which the Revenue Cutters would operate.  The Act also indicated that the ships would signal to other vessels their role with a unique flag, different than the Stars and Stripes seen on ships of war.  The Act required the design and use of "an ensign and pendant, with such marks thereon as shall be prescribed and directed by the President of the United States."  Oliver Walcott, who replaced Alexander Hamilton as the Secretary of the Treasury in 1795, designed the ensign in 1799 and submitted it for approval to President John Adams.  His design involved rotating the stripes to the vertical orientation, and including 16 stripes since the nation had 16 states by 1799.  It also included the Coat of Arms of the United States, consisting of the heraldic eagle with shield and arch of 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies, in blue on a white canton.  The Revenue Cutters, which operated under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department rather than Navy vessels which operated under the jurisdiction of the War Department, continued to fly this style of flag until the establishment of the Coast Guard, which subsumed the Revenue Cutter and Lighthouse Services.  The Coast Guard modified the flag by placing its seal atop the stripes to the right side of the flag, thus ending the use of the Revenue Cutter flags of the design seen in this example.
 


 

Learn more about ways that stars are affixed to American flags. Star Count:  13 Stars

Dates:  1890-1900

War Era:  Spanish American War Era

Statehood:  Original 13 Colonies

Construction:  Wool Bunting with Cotton Stars

Catalog Number:  IAS-00195

   
   

Next:
48 Stars, Circa 1912
A Scarce Late Medallion Pattern


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