Antique American Flags
are often overlooked as a true American folk art form.
Yet from a visual and artistic perspective, these flags
are actually one of the purest forms of American folk
art. Americans of every generation make homemade
flags, and each is unique, owing to the various skills
and designs of their makers. This whimsical flag began
life with 42 stars in 1889, and was updated to 45 stars
some time in the period of 1896-1908. Forty-two
star flags are considered "unofficial", since Idaho came
into the union on July 3, 1890, just one day before 42
would have become official. The count was valid for just
243 days, and pieced-and-sewn flags with 42 stars are
scarce. By the time this flag was made, American flags were
beginning to be mass produced in factories and often
exhibit a rigid, standard design of parallel rows of
stars, often zig-zag stitched stars often aligned vertically.
While it was much easier to simply buy a factory
produced flag, as it is today, the fact that somebody
took the time to make their own flag, in this case with
a full complement of 45 stars on each side for a total
of 90 stars all together, is fantastic. Its personal
charm is part of what makes finding flags such as this so
special, with its homemade simplicity and folky form.
The cotton stars of the flag dance across the
canton. They are nestled cozily together and
each is of a slightly different size and shape.
Rather than centering the rows of stars, they
are right-justified, leaving spaces to the left of
the canton. The three stars added later in the flag's
life are difficult to detect, but they are
somewhat smaller than the original stars on the
flag, and appear at the right side of the 2nd,
4th and 6th rows.The width of the stripes is uneven, giving
the flag a candy stripe look. The canton is faded
unevenly and its blue hues seem to radiate from the top
left corner, evidence that the flag once hung on a pole
and was exposed to the sun for some period of time.
These are the kinds of traits which elevate the flag
both stylistically and artistically, and make the flag a
wonderful example of homemade Americana.
The flag's original
circa 1889, prior to the
addition of three stars.