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Surviving flags with 24 stars which date to the period from 1821-1836, are rarely encountered, with likely less than ten examples currently known. Most of those that are known, such as IAS-00319 have star arrangements in row patterns, but this beautiful example is one of the earliest known examples of the Great Star pattern, also known as the Grand Luminary pattern. In 1817, when Congress was considering introducing new rules for how the American Flag would be extended to represent additional states being added to the Union, Representative Peter Wendover asked Captain Samuel Chester Reid, a former privateer captain in the American Navy during the War of 1812, for his recommendations. Reid proposed the rule of adding a star to the flag for each new state, but keeping the stripe count at 13 to represent the original colonies. Reid also provided sketches to Congress of some proposed designs for the flag, including a design showing the smaller stars of the canton arranged into a larger star pattern, which became known as the Great Star pattern. Congress incorporated Reid's proposal for the method of adding stars for each state while keeping thirteen stripes into the Flag Act of 1818, but they did not adopt his recommendation for the Great Star arrangement. Regardless, the pattern came into use in privately commissioned flags (as well as a myriad of other unique and interesting patterns of arranging the stars on 19th century flags) and the Great Star pattern has become one of the most beloved and sought after patterns for collectors of early American flags. Although this flag seems large at 11 feet on the fly and 9 feet on the hoist, it is relatively modest in size compared to the largest ship's flags, which could be over 20 feet by 30 feet in size. The fly end of the flag has been hemmed back, and it likely was longer when it was constructed, perhaps by four or five feet. This is the earliest example of the Great Star flag that I'm aware of that dates to this original early period. A similar example, also without a center star but in a 25 star count, is in the collection of the Huntingdon Historical Society, Hundington, Long Island, and is pictured in the book The Stars and Stripes by Boleslaw and Marie-Louise D'Otrange Mastai. A handful of other examples in the 26 star count, perhaps between six and ten examples, which tend to have center stars in addition to similar quirky great stars made with curved arches of stars, are also known. This example, being just 24 stars, could date to as early as 1821, just a few years after Captain Reid's suggestion for its design. It is a treasure of the earliest era of American Flag making.

Click here to see a gallery of Great Star Flags. Star Count: 24

Date: 1821-1836

Era: Manifest Destiny

Statehood: Missouri

Construction: Wool Bunting, Cotton Stars, Hand Sewn

Catalog Number: IAS-00461


13 Stars,
Ship's Pennant

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