38 Hand-Sewn, Single-Appliqued Stars On a Flag
38 star American national flag, by Annin in New York City. The flag is signed with a black stencil along the hoist binding that reads "Annin & Co. 99 & 101 FULTON ST NY". Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. The company was founded in the 1830's, incorporated in 1847, and was located in New York until the 1960’s, when it moved to Verona, New Jersey.
The stars are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but also because they are more visually intriguing. Both the sewing itself and stretching of the fabrics over time has results in stars that have irregular shapes and interesting visual qualities, which is why flags with single-appliquéd stars often appeal to connoisseurs of early American textiles. The two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction.
The stripes and canton of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with treadle stitching, which is typical of the period. The canton is constructed from two lengths of blue fabric, because wool bunting was only available in a maximum width of eighteen inches. There is a twill cotton binding with two brass grommets for hoisting, along which is a blue inked stencil that reads "8 XX" to indicate size, meaning "8 feet". The fly end of the flag has been shortened in the proper manner during its course of use to a length of approximately 6 feet 3 inches. Red wool tape was stitched to the flag to bind both the top and the fly end, to strengthen the hem. This homemade repair adds a visually interesting and thus desirable feature.
The name "G. Schenk", along with the date "1881", was signed on one of the stars with a dip pen. It was common to mark flags in this manner during the 19th century to indicate ownership, although less common to include a date. These features add further interest.
The 38th state, Colorado, received its statehood on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Although 37 was the official star count for the American flag in 1876, flag-making was a competitive venture, and no one wanted to be making 37 star flags when others were making 38’s. It is for this reason that 38 and 13 stars (to represent the original 13 colonies) are the two star counts most often seen at the Centennial International Exposition, the six-month long, World’s Fair, held in Philadelphia in honor of the event. The 38 star flag became official in 1877 and was generally used until the addition of the Dakotas in 1889.
Mounting: The flag was stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field for support. It was then sewn to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, which was washed to remove excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: There are minor losses from normal use, in addition to moderate losses along the hoist end of the blue wool bunting in the canton. Supportive fabric was stitched to the flag to support these areas by a former owner. There are various 19th century darning repairs as well, which are both endearing and attractive in my opinion. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.