13 Star American Flag with Zig-Zag Stitching, Circa 1910
This is a beautiful 13-star American flag, each star sewn with zig-zag stitching. The flag was sewn in the very early 20th Century, circa 1910. The flag features 13 white stars resting on a dark blue canton, with thirteen red and white alternating stripes completing the design.
The stars are arranged rigidly, with tips aligned, in the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern. The 3-2-3-2-3 pattern, which looks like a diamond of stars surrounded by four corner stars, is sometimes referred to as the Francis Hopkinson Pattern. Francis Hopkinson's submission of designs to the Continental Congress, which included design of the first Great Seal and a representation of the American Flag, included the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern of stars. For his design, Hopkinson asked to be paid in "a Quarter Cask of public wine" and later asked to be paid in $1,440 in Continental paper. Congress, however, refused both payments. Congress agreed that Hopkinson had a role in the design, but refused to pay him because he "consulted" other men. The 3-2-3-2-3 pattern is one of the most popular variations of 13 Star flags.
The original use of the 13 star flag dates to June 14th, 1777, each star representing a state in the new Union. Throughout the 19th century the U.S. Navy enjoyed the privilege of placing only 13-stars rather than the full complement of the day. During the 19th century, the flags appearance was constantly changing as a by-product of the nation’s western expansion. This U.S. Navy custom continued until President Woodrow Wilson discontinued the practice by executive order in 1916. Thereafter, flags were mandated to represent the actual number of states in the Union, with specific guidelines outlining the position of stars in the canton.
This flag was sewn with a zig-zag stitching. On February 23, 1892, Mr. Henry Bowman, an African American, was awarded patent #473,653, Device for Making Flags, in which he patented the use of zig-zag stitching specifically for sewing stars onto American flags. As Bowman’s patent describes, the approach was to sew the white fabric blanks to each side of the canton, using zig-zag stitching, and to then cut away the blanks and leave the stars. Although this was not the most efficient use of raw materials, the method was a significant improvement in speed versus cutting stars separately. The rough edges of the stars were more secure with the zig-zag stitching. This can also leave them looking coarser than a carefully turned-under star.
This beautiful flag is in excellent condition, with minimal age-appropriate wear. The flag has slight surface toning to the fabric and with one small stain in the fourth white stripe. It has nice bright color and no loss of fabric. It has been archivally mounted on linen backing and housed in a custom-built black and gold frame.