Antiques American Flag with Ten-Pointed Stars That Spell "1776-1876"

Price Upon Request


Antique American flag with ten-pointed stars that spell “1776-1876”, made for the 100-year anniversary of American independence, one of the most graphic of all early examples:

Many fantastic star patterns were made in the patriotism that accompanied the celebration of the Nation’s Centennial in 1876, and this is among the best of all examples. Furthermore, flags with stars that spell out numeric or alphabetical characters are among the rarest of all designs. Only three other designs are currently known to exist.

In the canton of this flag, 38 stars are arranged to form “1776”. The count of 38 reflects Colorado’s pending statehood. The stars have ten points, five of which are narrow and fall between the larger arms. 42 stars make up the numerals 1876. This may reflect speculation that two more states would soon join the Union, as other flags of this period are known that clearly support the same assumption. Or it may be that the number of stars used to spell 1876 may simply have been a matter of convenience.

The 38th state, Colorado, gained its statehood on August 1st, 1876. The flag was official from July 4th, 1877-July 3rd, 1889. Because flag-making was a competitive venture, no one wanted to be making 37 star flags when others were making 38’s. Flag makers paid little heed to official star counts, and would have begun producing 38 star flags for the Nation’s centennial sometime in 1875 or the early part of 1876.

These particular flags with the 1776-1876 formation would certainly have been displayed at the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, an important World’s Fair that served as the official celebration of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. More likely than not, they were made specifically for that event and they bear the unusual trait of being printed on a thin fabric made from blended wool and cotton. The reason for the inclusion of wool was that it sheds water, making it an obvious choice for flags that were to be used outdoors over an extended period. Most parade flags were printed on 100% cotton, because cotton was less expensive and most parades, political rallies, or reunions lasted only one day. Flags made for these events were thus disposable, meant to be used only that one day. The Centennial Exhibition lasted for more than a month and this is the reason that some makers used wool or wool blends for small, decorative flags. This particular variety is constructed of three pieces of fabric, which are treadle-sewn. There is a narrow, treadle-sewn binding made of twill weave cotton tape.

Mounting: The flag was backed with 100% natural fabrics, both for additional support and for masking purposes. The flag was then hand-sewn to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric was washed to reduce 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 with wide ogee profile and a rippled inner edge. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is some scattered staining throughout, accompanied by minor fabric loss, primarily located in the white stripes near the fly end. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The colors are exceptional.

Measures: Frame size (H x L): 40.25" x 58.75"
flag size (H x L): 28.5" x 46.5"
Date of Manufacture
19th Century
Good. See Item Description.
40.25 in. H x 58.75 in. W
102 cm H x 149 cm W
Dealer Location
York County, PA
Number of Items
Reference Number
Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques
(717) 775-6866
1stdibs Dealer since 2008 Located in York County, PA
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