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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 design,
circa 1889, prior to the
addition of three stars.

Learn more about the Parts of a Flag. Star Count:  42, Updated to 45

Dates:  1889, 1896-1908

War Era:  Spanish American War

Statehood:  Washington, Utah

Construction:  Cotton

Catalog Number:  IAS-00235


328th Infantry Regimental Color
World War I, Sgt York's Regiment

Except where cited otherwise, all content 2010-2014 by Anthony Iasso   

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