Historic York County York, PA United States 717.502.1281
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Homemade 34 Star Flag, Cornflower Blue, Interesting Configuration, 1861-1863

Origin United States
Period 19th Century
Materials Hand-Crafted Cotton.
W. 79.5 in; H. 61 in; D. 2.5 in;
W. 201.93 cm; H. 154.94 cm; D. 6.35 cm;
Condition Good. See item description. Wear consistent with age and use.
Creation Date 1861-1863
Description Homemade 34-star civil war flag with its stars arranged on a cornflower blue canton in a very interesting configuration that incorporates the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, possibly made with southern sympathies, 1861-1863:

34 star American national flag, entirely hand-sewn and made of cotton. The stars are roughly arranged in seven staggered rows of 6-4-6-3-6-4-6. This is a particularly large number of rows for such a low star count, but it is far from the flag’s most intriguing feature. More significant is the configuration which they create, in which the Southern Cross is embedded. Note how it can be drawn from an elongated hexagon of six stars in the center, from which double, parallel rows of three and four stars veer off diagonally toward each corner of the canton.

I have handled many stars and stripes variant flags that I feel were made, at least in part, to subtly display sympathies for the southern cause. Some have star counts that relate to the number of Confederate States, or to the number of Slave States and others have stripe counts that send a similar message, particularly with either seven or 11 stripes to reflect the total number of states that officially left the Union during the initial wave of secession, or the total that had officially seceded soon thereafter, but others have patterns embedded within the configuration of the stars. It has been suggested that features may have been used to marked a safe house for Confederate spies, or a place of business where southerners could find preferential treatment of some kind.

The unusual thing about this particular flag is that it also could be interpreted as displaying the Crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, due to the two flanking stars on the top, bottom, fore and aft of the “Southern Cross.” If this is the case, British glorification might be a deceptive message to distract the viewer from questioning any intended southern symbolism. This might seem to be more of a stretch of the imagination if there were not numerous other examples of Stars & Stripes flags that display Confederate sympathies, some of which are accompanied by similar misleading features.

Whatever pattern its maker intended, it can be suggested with confidence that hidden meanings were sewn into numerous Civil War period stars and stripes, and this one can be included among them. It can also be said that the flags in question often gained extraordinary graphic qualities from it, and that this one is no exception. In addition to the modern art-type qualities that result from the placement of the stars, other factors contribute to its striking visual appearance. Note how the fat, starfish-like shape of the stars varies greatly from one to the next, and how they point in various directions on their vertical axes. Also note how they are arranged on a canton that is not only unusual in color, but is made of glazed cotton that has a beautiful, lustrous sheen. Glazed fabric is very desirable in early American textiles, but it isn’t often seen in early flag-making. In addition to the stunning presentation found in the accumulation of these features, they lend precisely the kind of handmade charm that attracts flag collectors and connoisseurs of Americana to early examples of the Stars & Stripes.

Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about two-and-a-half months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but most flag makers would have added a 34th star with the addition of Kansas in January. The star count remained official until July 4th, 1863, and 34 star flags would have generally been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

Construction: The stripes and canton are hand-sewn and made of cotton. The stars are double-applique´d, meaning that they are sewn to both sides. Cotton was a poor fabric for outdoor signals, as it absorbs water. It was, however, the fabric of choice for homemade flags, because it was cheap and widely available.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support on every seam. It was then stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black cotton has been 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 front is U.V. protective acrylic.
Styles / Movements Americana
Incollect Reference Number 248680
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