Historic York County York, PA United States 717.502.1281
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Documentation Signed
Origin United States, Wisconsin
Period 19th Century
W. 59.5 in; H. 48.75 in; D. 2.5 in;
W. 151.13 cm; H. 123.83 cm; D. 6.35 cm;
Condition Good. see item description
Creation Date 1848-1850
Description Like the British Royal Navy, American vessels flew three flags. 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 at 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.

The American Navy 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.

Made sometime between 1848 and 1850, this terrific early example has a complement of 30 stars, arranged in a fairly rectilinear pattern, comprised of 5 rows with 6 stars each. Note how the stars point in various directions on their vertical axis, which adds a wonderful visual element. Also note how the rows display the irregularities of human error in this hand-made textile, which adds yet another interesting feature to the flag's presentation.

The stars of the flag are hand-sewn, made of cotton, and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). The blue field is made of two lengths of wool bunting that have been pieced with hand stitching. There is a plain weave binding along the hoist, also hand-sewn, with three brass grommets, along which "I. Hall" is lightly penciled near the bottom, and "Hall 121 Montague St." is inscribed near the center with a dip pen.

Isaac Hall was born in England in 1818. He first wed Sarah Sophia Phelps (b. unknown, wedding date unknown, d. 1861), then Emma Lukens (b. 1840, d. 1926), and each marriage produce at least three children. At some point prior to 1838 he moved to the states and in that year began a business in anchors, chains, and all forms of all forms of metalwork with regard to shipbuilding and outfitting. He was also a ship owner and the owner of a well-known bath house. The best summary of the business aspects of his life appeared a year following his death, in 1884, in a publication entitled "New York's Great Industries," by Richard Edwards, editor and proprietor, (Historical Publishing Co., New York and Chicago). On page 106, an obituary of sorts appeared in an entry regarding the business inherited and re-named by his son, William A. Hall, who operated under the name "Isaac Hall's Son." This reads as follows:

"The name and record of the late Mr. Isaac Hall of this city will long be remembered with respect and esteem by all classes of the community. No one was better known, or more popular, either among the patrons of his famous Battery Park Baths, or in the line of his extensive establishment devoted to the sale of anchors and chains, and shipsmithing in general. The late Mr. Hall was one of the old-time merchants of this city, and it was forty-five years ago, or in 1838, that he founded the business which has proved such an endearing success. He was always permanently located, corner of Broad and Front Streets, and the antiquated buildings thereat are now over one hundred years of age. It is safe to say that no one is more widely known in maritime circles, or bore a higher reputation for enterprise and strict integrity than Isaac Hall. He from the start aimed at meeting every want of his numerous customers, and he permanently retained the reputation of being the best man in the city to deal with in his line of trade. His concern, consequentially, steadily grew and eventually assumed very extensive proportions. Mr. Hall, with characteristic enterprise, some thirty-five years ago, recognizing the need there was for a first-class salt water bath for swimming and bathing, became proprietor of the one at the Battery, which has been a permanency ever since and become as much a landmark as Castle Garden itself. His swimming bath was the best kept and the best patronized of any in New York, and bore testimony to his practical common sense and persistent energy. The late Mr. Hall, as an influential resident of Brooklyn, took an active part in many important enterprises. He was a director of the Union Ferry Company and member of the Chamber of Commerce and Maritime Exchange for many years, and was ever a supporter of honest government for the community. As proof of his earnestness in this direction, it may be stated that at the time Mayor Lowe's re-election in November, 1883, and when Mr. Hall was suffering from his fatal illness, he had himself carried to the polls, and cast his ballot for the man, who, he felt, would best follow out a policy for honest government. Mr. Hall was a part owner of several large ships, was a respected member of the Society of Friends, and his lamented disease in November,1883, left a void that it will be hard to fill. He was essentially a self-made man, well-worthy of Matthew Hale Smith's eulogy in his "History of Self-made Men," and a citizen whose high character and permanent success have left their mark behind. Mr. Hall was succeeded in business by his son, Mr. William A. Hall, under the firm name of "Isaac Hall's Son," and who having had ample practical experience with his father, is energetically prosecuting all branches of the business. He owns an eligibly situated property in Brooklyn, one hundred feet by one hundred, where he stores a complete assortment of anchors of all sizes, from three thousand up to eight thousand pounds in weight, and adapted for ships of all dimensions…"

The 30th state, Wisconsin, joined the Union on May 29th, 1848. The 30 star flag was official until July 3rd, 1851, but 30 star flags would not likely have been made following the addition of California in 1850. Flag-makers paid little heed to official star counts unless required by the person(s) requesting that flags be produced to some particular design. While the Flag Act of 1818 dictated that the star count would officially change on the 4th of July following the date of a state's acceptance, stars were generally added by the makers of flags when the state was added (sometimes even beforehand). This means that the 30 star flag had a realistic window of production of just over two years.

While it would seem that Isaac Hall's maritime business was largely focused on metal craft, he does seem to have operated a business aimed at meeting the demands of his clientele. Whether or not he sold flags is unknown, but it is clear his business concerns were hardly one-dimensional. Because the flag bears his home address rather than that of his anchor, chain, and shipsmithing shop, it is likely that this jack was Hall's personal property and flown on one of ships in which he maintained an interest.

The presence of brass grommets on a flag of the 1848-1850 period is unique in my experience. That said, the first known patent for grommets was issued in 1848 and the patent was specified as an improvement on an earlier design. While metal grommets are almost never seen prior to the American Civil War (1861-1865), I suspect that if anyone was using grommets in 1848, it would be a metal smith outfitting ships in New York City. In addition, since there is no stitching at the top and bottom of the hoist binding, if there were no grommets originally, then there had to have been an open sleeve. Being a smith, Hall may have added grommets to his flag. Whatever the case may be, the grommets are early and are definitely 19th century. Because the flag otherwise is precisely what I would expect of an example made in the latter 1840's - 1850, entirely hand-sewn and with fabrics indicative of the time, and in all other way looking the part of a pre-Civil War flag, I believe this to be a period example.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% natural fabrics throughout for support. It was then hand-stitched to a background of hemp fabric. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is modest foxing and staining of the white cotton. There is a few small number of tiny to very minor holes. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind the flag, for masking purposes, during the mounting process. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Styles / Movements Americana, Traditional
Dealer Reference Number 30j-813
Incollect Reference Number 282085
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