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This rare flag of 13 stars dates to the period circa 1820-1840. It has several traits in both its materials and construction techniques that are characteristic of flags from this time period or perhaps even as early as 1810, when compared with other examples.  The use of the 4-5-4 pattern on 13 star flags dates back to the 18th century.  Thirteen star flags have been in continual use in America and were used by the Navy throughout the 19th and into the 20th century.   By the time of the Civil War, the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern became prevalent, but in the pre-Civil War era, the 4-5-4 pattern was more often used. The style of the stars, which are unevenly spaced and freely rotating, is also indicative of a pre-Civil War flag. The wool bunting of the flag is wispy, light-weight weave seen on early 19th century flags, and the cotton used for the stars is also loosely woven. Among the flags in the Rare Flags collection, this flag's cotton and wool bunting, including its lighter blue canton, is most like IAS-00319, a 24 star flag updated to 25 stars (1821-1836) which is why I attribute the flag to this earlier period. The stars of the flag are double-appliqué, rather than single-appliqué. Many flags of the very early 19th century have single-appliqué stars, by the mid-19th century, double-appliqué stars as see on his flag became more prevalent.  The thread used to sew the stars is cotton, but the stripes are sewn using a waxed linen thread often used for maritime flags due to its ability to withstand the elements.  It's unclear when the leather reinforcements were added to the cotton hoist, and it is not common on early flags but makes good sense, since the grommets of early flags were whip-stitched and made of stitching and the hoist fabric itself, and tended to tear through after prolonged use. 

Though the entire flag was originally hand-stitched, there is one run of machine stitching along the fly end where the edge of the stripes was doubled back and re-hemmed. The machine stitching is a chain stitch, which is the type produced by earliest sewing machine introduced to the United States in the late 1850's. This kind of repair is not uncommon on early flags, and would have been done to this flag circa 1855-1860. This is reasonable evidence that the flag was still in use in late 1850's. Since this is a repair, and not the primary means of construction, the presence of this machine stitching does not represent a "no earlier than" date for the flag, but rather a "was still in use as late as" date.  I do believe the flag is earlier, and of the 1820-1840 period for its time of manufacture, based on comparisons with other known flags such as the 20-star (IAS-00255), 24-star (IAS-00319), and 28-star (IAS-00293), and 30-star (IAS-00298) and 31-star (IAS-00106). This same type of stitching is seen the 31-star (IAS-00106) flag dating to the period of California statehood, circa 1851-1858, but in the case of that flag, the chain stitching is the primary sewing means used on the stripes of the flag itself, rather than just for a repair. The canton is wider than the top seven stripes, which is evidence that the flag was shortened considerably from its original width due to wind damage on its fly end.  Overall, the flag is a very beautiful and rare example of an early 13 star flag dating to early 19th century.

Click here to learn more about the fabrics used in early American flags. Star Count:  13 Stars

Dates:  1820-1840 or Earlier

War Era:  Mexican War

Statehood:  None

Construction:  Wool Bunting with Cotton Stars

Catalog Number:  IAS-00397


13 Stars, 3rd Maryland Pattern

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