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37 Star Antique American Flag Entirely Hand Sewn
37 star antique American flag, entirely hand sewn and in an attractive, small scale for the period, made by Joseph H. Foster in Philadelphia between 1867-1876, the period when Nebraska was the most recent state to join the union: Entirely hand sewn American national flag with 37 stars. Nebraska joined the Union on March 1st, 1876, less than two on the heels of the close of the Civil War. This was the era of Reconstruction of the South and at a time when many Civil War veterans re-enlisted and were shipped West to participate in tasks surrounding settlement of the territories and the Indian Wars. The 37 star flag became official on July 4th of that year and remained so until July 3rd, 1777, though it generally fell out of use in 1876 with the addition of Colorado. The 37 star-count is fairly scarce when compared to the flags that immediately preceded and followed it. This is due primarily to the lack of major patriotic events during the period in which they were generally used. While the 37 star flag was still official in 1876, the year of our nation's 100th anniversary of independence, it was well known that at least one more state would be joining the Union that year. This caused many flag makers to cease production in favor of 38 and 39 star flags (made in anticipation of yet another state), along with 13 star examples to commemorate the original 13 colonies. The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting, which is typical for long-term, outdoor use. Due to the limited width of this fabric, it was pieced in two sections. The stars are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd, meaning that they were applied to both sides. There is a wide binding along the hoist, made of sailcloth canvas, with two hand sewn, whip-stitched grommets for hoisting. Along this is a black-inked stencil that reads: "J.H. Foster; Maker; 443 N. 3rd; Philadelphia." Foster's name is attractively arched, with a fanciful symbol beneath. This is a mark I have not before encountered. Joseph H. Foster was listed as a sail maker as early as 1842. In both that year and 1845 his place of business was listed at 1 West. He was listed as an awning maker at 259 N. 3rd from at least 1847-1856. By 1859 he had moved to 443 N. 3rd., and though he seems to have had an interim address at 3rd and Willow, remained on N. 3rd until at least 1867. He appears in the 1860 census as a sail maker, age 40, born in Pennsylvania. In the 1870 census he is listed as an awning maker, age 50. Foster began advertising himself as a flag-maker in the Philadelphia Inquirer as early as February 7th, 1861, stating that he had 34 star flags available for the parade which was to be "held in honor of Washington’s birthday at 3rd & Willow." This is of significant interest because it demonstrates the clear use of the 34 star count following the addition of Kansas as the 34th state, yet before it became official on July 4th of 1861. "A grand turnout of firemen and military on the twenty-second of February [Washington’s birthday]," is also reported in the same paper, "the occasion being that of the raising of the American flag upon the capitol of Pennsylvania." The article goes on to say that "the flag is now being made by Foster, at Third and Willow. It will be 16 x 26 feet, of the finest material." On July 12th, 1861, in another ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Foster describes his business as having "a large supply of Bunting for Flags, American Flags, of all sizes ready made or made to order.” The stars of this particular flag are arranged in justified rows of 8-7-7-7-8. Note how these point in various directions on their vertical axis, which adds a nice element of folk quality to the design. The size of the flag is also desirable among its counterparts of the period. In the 19th century, flags with pieced-and-sewn construction were typically eight feet long or larger. Because flags needed to be seen and recognized from a great distance, large size important to their function as signals. A length of six feet on the fly was considered small and production of flags smaller than this was extremely limited. At 3 x 5.5 feet, plus the binding, this is a wonderful size, large enough to make a great statement, but small enough to be manageable and relatively versatile. Because the average 19th century sewn flag can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting, many collectors prefer smaller flags, like this one. Mounting: The flag has been handstitched to 100% natural fabrics throughout for support, on ever seam and throughout the star field. It was then handstitched to a background of 100% cotton, black in color, that 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 black-painted and hand-gilded Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas. All of the work was completed within our own conservation department, led by expert trained staff, where over 20 years we have conserved and framed literally thousands of flags and related textiles. Condition: There is a significant L-shaped tear in the upper, fly end corner of the canton, with associated loss, running just above the first three stars, from the corner, toward the hoist, and along the first four stars heading downward, along the canton. These are accompanied by two minor holes elsewhere in the canton, and a scattering of very minor losses. There are minor to modest losses in the upper and lower corners at the fly end, and at the bottom corner on the hoist end, where the red stripe meets the binding. All of these provide evidence that the flag was flown for an extended period. There are very minor holes elsewhere in the stripes field and there is minor to modest foxing and staining in the red and white fabrics. 100% natural fabrics of similar coloration were placed behind all of the above areas, during the mounting process. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Measures: Frame size (H x L) approxiamte 80" x 48" Flag size (H x L) 68" x 36".
- Place of Origin
- Date of Manufacture1867-1876
- Materials and Techniques
- Condition DetailsSee Item Description
- DimensionsH 80 in. x W 48 in. x D 2.5 in.H 203.2 cm x W 121.92 cm x D 6.35 cm
- Seller LocationYork County, PA
- Seller Reference Number37j-840
- Reference NumberLU849715960751
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About the Seller
5 / 5
1stdibs seller since 2008
Located in York County, PA
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