Freeman's
Rare English Naval Red Ensign of the USS Constitution, first half 19th century, inscribed Constitution and Vandalias English Ensign, Sold for $43,750 (Auction Record)

Department Specialist


Published: 29 April 2012

Freemans Achieves Auction Records for Rare and Early American Naval Flags

Freeman’s marathon day of auctions on April 30th--American Furniture, Silver, Folk and Decorative Arts followed by the Historic USS Constitution Colors from the Collection of H. Richard Dietrich Jr. was a resounding success realizing a combined total of $2.5 million. Provenance, uniqueness and overall high-quality generated excitement and interest from new and veteran collectors as well as institutions at home and abroad. The eleven flags and cannonball from the USS Constitution realized $784,500, were 100% sold, and established 12 auction records.

Freeman’s Chairman, Samuel M. "Beau" Freeman II commenting on the sale: "In my fifty years here at Freeman’s, this is one of the, if not the, most historic sale Freeman’s has ever hosted. We are proud that the American public recognized the historic significance of these flags from Old Ironsides and stepped forward to protect our nations treasures into the futurate." Highlights of the collection traveled to invition-only events in Annapolis and Newport earlier in April. They came home to Freeman’s for the public exhibition which opened with a champagne reception attended by the Dietrich family. After a week-long exhibition, yesterday's auction started at 6pm to a full room of seated and phone bidders. It kicked-off with the English Red Ensign achieving $43,750 and the Rare Imperial Brazilian Ensign $50,000. The French Republic Commissioning Pennant that later achieved $18,750 was eclipsed by lot 4, the three pound projectile cannonball removed from Old Ironsides hull, which rocketed passed its estimate of $300-500 to its final price of $22,500. "Interesting to know that an English cannonball does better than a French flag" commented auctioneer and Vice Chairman Alasdair Nichol light-heartedly from the rostrum. An equally competitive situation arose for lot 7, a US Commodore’s Broad Pennant estimated at $4,000-6,000 sailed up to its final price of $32,500. H. Richard Dietrich, III, shared "We were pleased with the auction yesterday. It was a very special collection of naval flags. It has been an honor as a family to have had these flags over so many years, and we are excited that they have found new stewards to enjoy and care for them. Working with Freeman’s throughout this whole effort has been a pleasure. Freeman’s did a great job showcasing the inspiring story of the flags, their hard work was evident at every stage."
                                 
The top two lots achieved $158,500 each. The first was lot 5, a rare 31-star United States Ensign of the USS Constitution (1851-1858) and is most likely her last ensign prior to the ship being laid up in ordinary at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in 1855. Inscribed on the hoist is Constitution No. 1 which refers to the size of the flag. In the US Navy the No. 1 ensign was the vessel’s largest. The second was lot 8 a rare and early U.S. Commodore’s Broad Pennant from the USS Constitution, the oldest known representation of a U.S. Commodore’s broad pennant, in use from 1837 to 1845 annd inscribed on the hoist Constitution Bradd pendend. This Broad Pennant dates from the period when the Constitution served as the flagship of both the Mediterranean Squadron (1837-1838) and the Pacific Squadron (1839-1842) under Commodores Jesse Duncan Elliot and Daniel Turner.

America’s oldest auction house, founded in 1805, is proud and honored to have sold historic naval colors from America’s oldest war ship, the USS Constitution.

  • Lot 1, Rare English Naval Red Ensign of the USS Constitution, first half 19th century, inscribed Constitution and Vandalia’s English Ensign Estimate $30,000 - $50,000 $43,750 (Auction Record)
  • Lot 2, Rare Imperial Brazilian Ensign of the USS Constitution, circa 1835, hoist inscribed Constitution and USS Ohio Estimate $30,000 - $50,000 $50,000 Auction Record
  • Lot 3, Rare French Republic Naval Commissioning Pennant of the USS Constitution, late 18th century, hoist inscribed French Pennent Estimate $15,000-20,000 $18,750 Auction Record
  • Lot 4, Three Pound Projectile, removed from the hull of the USS Constitution Estimate $300-500 $22,500 Auction Record
  • Lot 5, Rare 31- star United States Ensign of the USS Constitution, circa 1851 Estimate $150,000-250,000 $158,500 Auction Record
  • Lot 6, Rare 28- star United States Ensign from the USS Constitution, Texas Flag, circa 1846 Estimate $100,000-200,000 $134,500 Auction Record
  • Lot 7, United States Commodore’s Pennant of the USS Constitution for a small boat, circa 1450 Estimate $4,000-6,000 $32,500 Auction Record
  • Lot 8, Rare Commodore’s Broad Pennant from the USS Constitution, circa 1837 Estimate $150,000-250,000 $158,500 Auction Record
  • Lot 9, Rare 19-star United States Ensign from the USS Constitution, circa 1816 Estimate $100,000-200,000 $110,500 Auction Record
  • Lot 10, 11-star US Commissioning Pennant of the USS Constitution, late 18th century to mid 18th century Estimate $10,000-20,000 $31,250 Auction Record
  • Lot 11, 8-Star Commissioning pennant for the USS Constitution, late 18th to mid 19th century Estimate $5,000-10,000 $12,500 Auction Record
  • Lot 12, United States Ensign from the USS Constitution (fragment), 1847-1854 Estimate $10,000-20,000 $11,250 Auction Record

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