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Antique American U.S Navy Jack with 38 Hand-Sewn Stars and a Rare Maker's Mark
ANTIQUE AMERICAN U.S. NAVY JACK WITH 38 HAND-SEWN STARS AND A RARE MAKER'S MARK OF FLAG AND SAILMAKER W. K. HINMAN OF NEW YORK CITY, FLOWN ON THE YACHT "MARY EMMA," THE FIRST OF SUCH CRAFT OWNED BY AMERICAN FINANCIER AND THREE-TIME WINNER OF THE AMERICA'S CUP, C. OLIVER ISELIN; 1876-1877, REFLECTS COLORADO STATEHOOD: Like the British Royal Navy, American vessels flew three flags. These included the American national flag, a Union Jack (not to be confused with the British Union Flag, often identified by this name), and a commission pennant. The American Navy jack, often referred to simply as the "jack," is a blue flag with a field of white stars. The design is the mirror image of the canton of an American national flag. In scale, the jack was meant to be the same size as the canton of the corresponding Stars & Stripes ensign with which it was flown. When at anchor or moored, the jack is flown at the bow (front), the national flag or "ensign" is flown at the stern (back), and the commission pennant is flown from the main mast. When under way, the jack is furled and the ensign may be kept in place or shifted to a gaff if the ship is so equipped. This 38 star American example was made and signed by William K. Hinman, a ship's chandler in New York City. The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and double appliquéd (applied to both sides) of the blue field, which is made of wool bunting. The blue wool is comprised of two lengths of fabric that have been joined with treadle stitching. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist, applied by treadle machine, with two brass grommets. Along this, near the bottom on the obverse (front), the name of the maker was stenciled in black ink. This reads: "W.K. Hinman, 169 South St. N.Y." Three inscriptions also appear along the hoist. Underneath the stencil, "3 x 5 Jack" was lightly penciled. At the top the name "Mary Emma" appears twice, once in penciled script and once with a dip pen. Several ships with the name Mary Emma existed during the second half of the 19th century. These include: (1) A merchant trade schooner owned by Smith Rider of Brookhaven, New York, mistakenly taken as a war prize off the coast of Hyde County, North Carolina, during the Civil War by Union Lieutenant G.W. Graves, commander of the U.S.S. Lockwood [ref. "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Vol. 10: North Atlantic Blockading Squadron," 1900, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, compiled by the Secretary of the Navy and the Superintendent of Naval War Records]; (2) A merchant sloop with the name chalked on its stern, supposedly hailing from Horn Harbor, Virginia, captained by one John B. Miles, and captured in Maryland on the River Manokin by Union Lieutenant Pierce Crosby of Fortress Monroe on August 26th, 1861 [ref. Series 1, Volume 6 of the same compendium of texts]; (3) A sloop, presumably a trade vessel, owned by Joseph Cromwell of Fishkill, New York, insured by Mohawk Valley Insurance on March 16th, 1854 [ref. records archive at Mystic Seaport Museum]; (4) A 25-foot, Third Class yacht (a sloop) belonging to the Iselin Brothers of New York City, which sailed from the Seawanhaka-Corinthian Yacht Club near Oyster Bay, New York. The only ship among these that would have flown a jack was the Iselin craft. Owners of private yachts often followed navy tradition with regard to signals, and were also fond of decking them out with a host of appropriate flags for the purposes of fanciful dress. The Iselins were the collective sons of Adrian Georg Iselin, the son of a Swiss immigrant, and nephews to Adrian's brother, William. Iselin family interests began in the dry goods trade, then Adrian moved into banking, whereby he became an investor in real estate, railroads, and coal. Most notable among these investments was the extremely profitable firm of R & P Coal & Iron Company, which operated near Pittsburgh and fell under Iselin's careful management. A member of both New York's Union League and Union Clubs, Adrian served as the Swiss Consol in New York and was civically-minded. He played a significant role in the founding of the Metropolitan Opera House (later becoming its director), the Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His sons, Adrian, Jr., William E., Columbus O'Donnell, and C. (Charles) Oliver, were all successful businessmen. And avid Yachtsman, Adrian built a compound in New Rochelle with estates for each of his children. Oliver would become the most famous of these in yachting. A member of the New York Stock Exchange and the New York Yacht Club, he was managing owner of the syndicate that built the yacht Vigilant, which won the America's Cup in 1893. Other partners in the syndicate were his father, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Charles R. Flint, August Belmont, Jr., Chester W. Chapin, George R. Clark, Henry Astor Carey, Dr. Barton Hopkins, E.M. Fulton, Jr., and Edwin Dennison Morgan (21st Governor of New York (1859-62), United States Senator (1863-69), and the first and longest-serving chairman of the Republican National Committee. He was also part of the syndicate that built the yacht Columbia for J.P. Morgan, that won the Cup in 1899 and 1900. Back in 1873, while still a student at Columbia, Oliver bought the Mary Emma, a "sandbagger," which he captained in various races between that year and 1877, when he bought a faster craft called Dare Devil. Iselin competed in 1876 in a 20-mile course originating and ending in New Rochelle, in which the he and his brothers lost a $500 wager with Edward Spahn and Vice Commodore Jacob Schmidt of the Williamsburg Yacht Club, after a boat called Pluck & Luck easily beat the Mary Emma. Also in 1876, the yacht competed in the Second Centennial Regatta, a 20-mile race held by the New York Yacht Club off Coney Island. Mary Emma finished in mid-field among what was hailed as the "fastest sailing craft in the world." [ref. R. F. Coffin (?), "A Yachting Wonder. Sudden Development of the Fastest Craft in the World. The Reveille, Susie B., Amaryllis and Victoria Win the Second Centennial Regatta." The World, June 24, 1876, p. 2.] Colorado became the 38th state on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Per the Third Flag Act of 1818, stars were not officially added until the 4th of July following a state's addition. For this reason, 37 was the official star count for the American flag in 1876. Flag-making was a competitive venture, however, and few flag-makers would have been continuing to produce 37 star flags when their competitors were making 38’s. It is for this reason that 38 and 13 stars (to represent the original 13 colonies) are more often seen at the Centennial International Exposition, the six-month long World’s Fair held in Philadelphia in honor of the event. Some flag-makers would have been adding a star for the 38th state even before it entered the Union, in the early part of 1876 or even prior. In fact, many makers of parade flags were actually producing 39 star flags, in hopeful anticipation of the addition of two more Western Territories instead of one. But the 39th state would not join the Union for another 13 years, when the Dakota Territory entered as two states on the same day. The 38 star flag became official on July 4th, 1877 and was generally used until the addition of the Dakotas in 1889. It would have been between 1876 and 1877, most likely, when Iselin was actively piloting the Mary Emma, that this 38 star jack was ordered and flown. Despite the fact that they were flown on all Navy ships, jacks with fewer than 48 stars are anything but common and those of a reasonable scale for framing and display are even less so. Surviving 48 star examples tend to be 3 feet long on the fly, but pre-1912 examples tend to be larger, and the earlier the flag is, the larger they tend to be. At approximately 3.25 x 5 feet, this particular example is of bold but very manageable scale. Brief History of W.K. Hinman, Ship's Chandler & Flag-Maker: William K. Hinman was born in New York City on October 27th, 1815. This was the year in which the United States signed a treaty with England to end the War of 1812. Educated at Union Hall Academy, he went into the ship chandlery business at 169 South Street with John S. Williams in 1840, under the name Williams & Hinman. Williams left in 1858 and Hinman continued at the same location until May 1st, 1899, when he retired. He was a member of a list of notable organizations, including the New York Historical Society, the American Geographical Society, the NY Port Society, and United States Lloyds (marine), the latter of which published an annual compendium of maritime vessels and flags. [Information herein taken almost verbatim from "The Biography of the State of New York 1900" (Biographical Directory Company, Park Row Bldg., NYC), p. 200.] An ad taken in the New York City Register for 1871 shows that he was operating at that time under the name of "W.K. Hinman & Co." with a partner by the name of John W. Underhill. The ad lists the business as "Importers of Anchors, Chains, Bunting, & c. Dealers in Cordage, Oakum, Oils, Naval Stores & Engineer Supplies." Despite his 59 years of operation, this is the only flag I have ever seen with a Hinman maker's mark. This is likely because most flag makers don't seem to have signed their material during the 19th century. Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed in our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples. The fabric is 100% hemp or a hemp and cotton blend. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian, with a wide ogee profile and a rippled inner lip. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic. Condition: There is extremely minor mothing and extremely minor losses at the top and bottom of the fly end. There is very minor foxing and staining. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 52" x 72.5" Flag Size (H x L): 39" x 59.5" About Jeff R. Bridgman Antiques, Inc.: As an advisor to top museums and collectors alike, Jeff Bridgman is the world's leading expert and source for antique American flags and political textiles. In this field there are many fakes, forgeries, and misrepresented items, and there is no substitute for experience. As the nation's leading buyer and seller, Jeff R, Bridgman Antiques, Inc. has handled more material than anyone in the field. He has also operated a textile conservation business for 18 years, where expert staff have conservation mounted, framed and restored thousands of examples, more than anyone world-wide.
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