Rare 81-Star "1776-1876" Centennial American Parade Flag
This is an extremely rare 1876 U.S. Centennial celebration parade flag. The design was popular at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and was sold in a number of different sizes, including hand-wavers, stick-flags, and full-size flags. This is one of the most desirable sizes, featuring 81-10 point stars that spell out “1776-1876”.
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 10 points, 5 of which are narrow and fall between the larger arms. 43 stars make up the numerals 1876.
Many fantastic star patterns were made in the spirit 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.
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.
This particular flag, with the 1776-1876 configuration, 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, it was made specifically for that event and it bears 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, only to be used one day. The Centennial Exhibition lasted for more than a month and this is the reason that some makers used wool or wool blends. This particular variety is constructed of three pieces of fabric, all of which are treadle-sewn.
The flags was made according to a new technique patented in 1870 (Patent number 102,267) by John Holt of Lowell, Massachusetts. Holt was an innovator in what he called "Press Dying" (sometimes also known as "Clamp Dying") where two metal plates are crafted with a matching design, say stars for example, and are clamped together with fabric in between, then dyed the ground color (blue in our example). The bundle is then dried and unclamped, leaving the area between the design on the metal plates the original color of the fabric (white).
Holt's patent in 1870 utilized his previous patents on the process to cover the printing of US Flags in three pieces, the canton, the shorter stripes next to the canton and the longer stripes below the canton and then sewing those three pieces together to form the finished flag. The larger flags of this design are made that way while the smaller flags are made in two pieces, the canton and the stripes with the canton inset into the stripes to finish the flag.
Framed Size: 48 1/2" H x 69" W x 3 1/2" D