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This flag is a very rare small-scale pieced-and-sewn example of the American Civil Flag, also known as the Revenue Cutter Flag.  This particular example is rare not only because Revenue Cutter flags themselves are extremely scarce, owing to the small number of vessels in the American Revenue Cutter fleet, but also because of its very small size and sewn construction.  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.

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 Ship's Flags of the early 19th Century. 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-00292

   
   

Next:
13 Stars, Trumbull Pattern
c1845-1860


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