A closer look at some unique and unusual American National Flags on offer at Freeman's November 10.
10/29/2021 News and Film, American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts
Freeman’s November 10 American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts auction features The American National Flag Collection of Jeffrey Kenneth Kohn, MD (Lots 1-50), a selection of rare examples from one of the nation’s foremost experts in and dealers of the National Flag.
Alongside the instantly recognizable stars and stripes now used as the symbol of America, there is a long, rich history of alternate iterations of the National Flag. Designed and executed to commemorate individual statehood, to present to foreign ambassadors, to illustrate the Civil War–era North/South divide, or to fly proudly at parades or other celebratory events, these flags are as much a part of the fabric of American history as the flag that flies today.
Here, a closer look at some of the flags on offer in Freeman's November 10 auction is accompanied by insight from consignor Jeffrey Kenneth Kohn, MD.
Lot 1 | A 13-Star American National Flag | $25,000-35,000
Though we have a fixed idea of Old Glory today—with its thirteen stripes for the thirteen original colonies, and fifty stars, one for each state—the flag has seen many iterations since it was adopted by Congress in 1777. Here, a 13-Star American National Flag (Lot 1; estimate: $25,000-35,000) has thirteen stars and stripes both, was constructed through a combination of machine stitching and hand sewing in the 1860s-70s.
Lot 35 | A 44/13 Star American National Flag commemorating Wyoming statehood | $20,000-30,000
Two in one: a 44/13 Star American National Flag commemorating Wyoming statehood (Lot 35; estimate: $20,000-30,000) features a classic, recognizable 44-star flag on one side and a flag with a hand-painted panel on the reverse. The panel’s intricately painted American eagle carries a banner in its beak inscribed “United we Stand – Divided we Fall”—a phrase first popularized by Founding Father John Dickinson in his song “The Liberty Song,” published in 1768.
Lot 13 | A Civil War era 34-Star "Union and Liberty Forever" American Flag commemorating Kansas Statehood | $10,000-20,000
Many of the flags on offer in The American National Flag Collection of Jeffrey Kenneth Kohn, MD commemorate individual statehood. This Civil War–era 34-Star “Union and Liberty Forever” flag celebrates Kansas’s 1861 entrance into the Union (Lot 13; estimate: $10,000-20,000). Designed with cascading blue stars on a white background—an inversion of the current color scheme—the flag calls to mind Kansas’s state motto, Ad astra per aspera (“to the stars through difficulties”).
Lot 16 | A rare Civil War "Grand Luminary Shooting Star" Flag commemorating Kansas statehood | $30,000-50,000
Kansas statehood was clearly a cause for celebration, if Lots 13 and 16 are any indication. Lot 16, a rare Civil War 34 “Grand Luminary Shooting Star” Flag (estimate: $30,000-50,000), hand-sewn in the early 1860s, features a striking star pattern made up of the individual stars themselves. It’s an unusual pattern that the consignor believes is the only American National Flag, irrespective of age, that features “shooting stars.”
Lot 4 | A rare 13-Star American National Flag with 21 "Scattered Stars" | $25,000-50,000
We’re accustomed to stars of uniform size dotting the American flag, but this rare 13-Star American National Flag with 21 “Scattered Stars” features thirteen larger stars arranged into an oval and twenty-one smaller stars hand-sewn around them (Lot 4; estimate: $25,000-50,000). From 1824-1825, French aristocrat and military officer Marquis de Lafayette made an extensive tour of the then 24 United States, and the early bunting, hand-stitching, and star arrangement of this flag strongly suggests it was made to celebrate his visit—with the twenty-one smaller stars added around 1861 when Kansas was made a state.
Lot 37 | A 45-Star American National Flag commemorating Utah statehood | $12,000-15,000
Lot 37 (estimate: $12,000-15,000) celebrates the statehood of Utah, one of the final states to be admitted to the Union in 1896. This 45-Star American National Flag is designed with its stars arranged in a unique flower pattern that looks a bit like Utah’s state flower, the sego lily—an elegant white-and-yellow plant native to the region that symbolizes peace and has long been utilized as a food source by Native tribes.
Lot 34 | A 43-Star American Ceremonial Flag commemorating Idaho statehood | $35,000-45,000
The red, white, blue, and…yellow? On the occasion of Idaho’s statehood, a 43-Star American Ceremonial Flag was constructed with yellow fringe on three sides (Lot 34; estimate: $35,000-45,000). Here, the stars—arranged in a double-medallion pattern—match the golden hue of the flag’s fringe. It’s believed that this flag was presented to the governor of Idaho upon its entrance to the Union.
Lot 32 | A 42-Star American National Flag commemorating Washington statehood | $10,000-15,000
The American flag as we know it now features neat lines of stars arranged in offset rows, alternating between five and six stars per row. But the design hasn’t always been so orderly: an iteration commemorating Washington statehood circa 1889 is a bit different (Lot 32; estimate: $10,000-15,000). The flag features “akimbo” rows of 42 stars, a charming pattern in which the stars appear to cluster and settle together toward the bottom of the blue rectangle.