beautiful early 19th
century flag descended in the Wales family of Brookline,
Massachusetts. The finder of the flag located this
flag, along with a 35 star flag from the Civil War
period, at the same time. Written on the 35 star
flag was the name "George R. Wales, Brookline, Mass."
Written on this 13 star flag, which pre-dates the 35
star flag, is the name "John Wales". George Rogers
Wales of Brookline was born in 1862 and died 1922. This
flag either belonged to George's father, John Wales (b.
1832, d. 1900); his grandfather John Wales (b. 1795, d.
1865); or his great grandfather John Wales (b. 1762, d.
1823). The family history of the Wales family is well
documented, with the family patriarch, Nathaniel Wales
(b. 1623, d. 1662) being born in York, England and dying
in colonial Boston, Massachusetts. It's difficult
to definitively date pre-Civil War 13 star flags, but
the construction and style of this special flag leads me
to believe that it dates to the period circa 1840-1860,
and likely was owned by George's father. The flag
is entirely hand stitched, with whip stitched grommets,
wool bunting canton and stripes, and single-appliqué
cotton stars. This type of construction could date
from the period circa 1800 through to the Civil War. A
closer examination of the thread used in the flag, to
determine its composition and twist, would be necessary
to possibly narrow its age further. The flag is
especially rare because of its very small size, at just
27 inches on the hoist, 48 inches on the fly. The
"finished" side of the flag is typically what we think
of as the back of the flag, with the front of the flag
showing the details of the single-appliqué work.
This is one of my favorite attributes seen on the
earliest American flags, because it's such a lost art in
flag-making, becoming nearly extinct by the post-Civil
The same star, shown on both sides of
the flag. A wonderful example of early
19th century single-appliqué construction. Note
the spindly curvature of the arms of the stars.
This is an attribute I've most often encountered in the
very earliest American flags.