19-Star Flag on Ebay

Discussion in 'Flag Identification and Collecting' started by Two Fish Apparel, Jul 4, 2013.

  1. Two Fish Apparel

    Two Fish Apparel New Member

    Last weekend I logged onto Ebay and saw a 19-star flag that the seller guaranteed was 1816-1817 authentic. I was hugely skeptical because flags this age seem so ridiculously rare. The seller offered a full return refund if the flag is returned though so I Googled 19-star flags and saw that this exact flag had been listed at Cowan's Auctions in 2010 but hadn't sold. Rare 19-Star American Flag - Cowan's Auctions and 201: Rare 19-Star American Flag* : Lot 201. That made me a little more confident so I placed and won the bid. I then sent an email to Dave Martucci and he agreed to examine the flag and give his professional assessment. I wrote back to the seller and he confirmed again that he would refund the entire purchase price if the assessment comes back that the flag is anything less than an authentic 1816-1817 original flag. With that confirmation I paid for the flag and am having it shipped directly to Mr. Martucci for his review. My risks if not authentic is the cost of shipping, Mr. Martucci's assessment fee, and if for some reason I can't get my money back from Paypal. The chance that it is original seemed worth the risks. I'm greatly hopeful that I found a gem but have realistic expectations of success. I'll post updates as I get them.

    19 Star Flag.jpg

    Cowan's Auction Original Assessment: Cotton, 60 x 88 in., with 19 hand-sewn, double-applique cotton stars configured in an arrangement of one central star surrounded by a ring of eight stars, which is surrounded on three sides by ten stars. The fly is constructed of eight hand-sewn, cotton stripes, with the name Mitchell inked on verso, along edge of right side of flag. A rare, early flag possibly created around the time when Indiana became the 19th state in the Union, December 11, 1816.
    Condition: Noticeable wear along edges; tear along top right portion of flag; 3 holes in second white stripe from top; loss of fabric along top edge of canton; few tears along seams of flag; scattered stains; some toning.

    Attached Files:

  2. Two Fish Apparel

    Two Fish Apparel New Member

    My first update is interesting news. I found an article on Jeff Bridgman's website talking about the recovery effort after this flag was stolen in an Oklahoma City robbery: Jeff Bridgman American Antiques. Stolen antique flags recovered. The article doesn't include a photo of the flag but the link to the article shows a photo and it is obviously this same flag. I couldn't find a date to the article so don't know when this theft occurred. I'll send Mr Bridgman an note after the weekend asking what else he knows about it.

    After reporting the theft, Ms Livingston remembered Mr Bridgman and his expertise in antique American flags from previous business they had done together. She sent him an email describing the two flags that had been taken - one a centennial 13-star flag about 6 feet in length and the other the 19-star flag - and included pictures of the flags.

    "I didn't know about the other stuff that was stolen," said Mr Bridgman, "but I knew as soon as I saw the photo of the 19-star flag that if it was stolen, I would recognize it when I saw it."

    Shortly after being alerted by Ms Livingston about the stolen flags, Mr Bridgman received an email from a gentleman who said he was thinking about offering some flags he had on eBay, but didn't have a lot of experience with online auctions and wondered if perhaps Mr Bridgman would have any interest in purchasing the flags from him.
    ....and a very rare early Nineteenth Century eight-stripe, 19-star American flag of hand-pieced, hand-appliqued construction.
    Keeping his eyes open for fresh merchandise is part of Mr. Bridgman's raison d'etre, so he replied to the email "Sure, send them along."

    As soon as he received an email with the photo of the 19-star flag, Mr Bridgman knew it was the stolen example. "This was at midnight - I often work until 3 or 4 am - but I knew Lyn would want to know about this right away. I had her cell phone number and called her, forwarded her the email and she called the police.
  3. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    Will you get your money back? Thanks for sharing this with us. Please keep us posted.
    Hoping this will be a Happy Forth for you,
  4. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    Hi David - what a coincidence - I am also a David and also am located in Cincinnati, OH.

    I'd never thought of eBay as a way to fence stolen goods, but it does seem obvious in hindsight as its so anonymous. I wasn't expecting that twist, I was expecting you to report back it was a flag from one of the specialty flag makers that makes flags for re-enactors/movies/plays and the like.
  5. Two Fish Apparel

    Two Fish Apparel New Member

    I was actually very hopeful after finding the article. The write up described the flag a as very rare eight-stripe, 19-star American flag dating back to the early Nineteenth Century. If he didn't think it authentic I'd hope that Jeff Bridgman would have said something. It doesn't sound like he personally saw the flag but the article certainly implies that it is real. The article goes on to say that with Jeff Bridgman's help the flag was recovered and returned to the rightful owner. I don't know the year the article was written but it does say this happened in December. That makes the theft/recovery at least 6 months old. Unless it was stolen a second time, or unless a thief posted and is trying to sell a photo of a flag they don't have I think it is in the clear. The seller has a great Ebay feedback score with lots of great ratings and an actual brick-and-mortar business so I am hopeful. I thought the whole article gave the flag a bit of intrigue. Throw in an international arms dealer and a devastating computer virus and the next James Bond movie is nearly written.

    David - I actually guessed that you are from Cincy. I've looked at your flag collection photos and saw numerous Xavier and Reds flags - too many for coincidence. I even recall that you have one from King's Island. Very nice to know there are other collectors in the neighborhood.

    Happy Independence Day everyone.
  6. Two Fish Apparel

    Two Fish Apparel New Member

    I just received a reply from my email to Jeff Bridgman. Specifically I asked if he knew whether the flag had been returned to the rightful owner and if he recalled anything else about the flag.

    I recall the flag, of course, but have not seen it in a while. I recall that it was not correct. It had been altered, which is why I didn't buy it either of the times it went up for auction. Sorry to be the bearer of this news. That's what happens when sellers who lack the proper knowledge sell an object. There's no better way to say it than that. As for the legality, the flag would have been returned to its original owner, yes. It was then sold at auction in Oklahoma City. Warm Regards - Jeff.

    I have not yet received the flag but will still send it to Dave Martucci for his assessment. If Mr. Martucci's written assessment matches Mr. Bridgman's then because of an agreement I have with the seller I can return it for full refund. Still - disappointing news for sure.
  7. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    Nice to (virtually) meet you David. I'm not ready to jump into the rare/antique flags pool, but I've managed to acquire quite a collection nonetheless.
  8. mike123

    mike123 New Member

    what is the symbolism of the eight stripes?
  9. Two Fish Apparel

    Two Fish Apparel New Member

    I received Mr. Martucci's assessment a few weeks ago and until your post Mike forgot to update it here. It was definitively identified as an exclusionary flag probably made in early 1861. I can't get the math to work out as well as Mr Martucci, but I do believe his assessment is correct. After Kansas became a State in Jan 1861, there were exactly 19 free States. This counts all of the Northern States except Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri which allowed slaves. So far this makes sense to me. The 8 stripes were supposed to be for the remaining original colonies. This is a little problematic. If you count only the original colonies that were free states you get 7. If you count all of the original colonies that remained in the Union you get 9. The difference is Maryland and Delaware. To get 19 stars and 8 stripes it would seem that neither was counted for the stars but one was counted for the stripes. Anyone with an explanation or historical perspective on this I would be interested to hear thoughts.

    I did decide to keep the flag. It is not an original as advertised, but still a very cool item of American history.

    Mr. Martucci's Assessment:

    I have reviewed the photos and the description you submitted of your flag for the purpose of assessing this item for its age, value and desirability on the market.

    The item is specifically described as follows: A 19-star US Flag measuring approximately 60 inches by 88 inches, consisting of 8 alternate red and white stripes (red at the top and white at the bottom) and a blue canton measuring approximately 24¾ inches by 25 inches that goes down approximately 3⅓ stripes and bearing 19 white stars one of which is approximately 7 inches in diameter, in the center, “pointing†towards the hoist end, the other stars being approximately 4 inches in diameter, all pointing in various directions, arranged with a ring of 8 stars around the center one, and 4 at each end in vertical rows and 2 at the top of the canton above the ring of stars. The stripes measure approximately 7½ inches each in width. The body of the flag is made from cotton sheeting while the canton is made of glazed cotton. The stars are made of cotton sheeting and are appliquéd onto each side. All of the sewing on this flag is by hand.

    The flag has no header, apparently having been ripped along the hoist edge. The blue canton was doubled over at this side, but it is also ripped. Likely there was once a basic header here. The fly end is finished with a single hem, but the top and bottom of the flag are frayed, perhaps also having been ripped, although the top of the canton is clearly the selvage of the fabric. Some of the white stripes were pieced. The flag is in good condition with some rips and tears and some holes. The white is a slight bit yellowed but overall the colors are very strong.

    Indiana was the 19th state, having been admitted December 11, 1816. The 20th State was Mississippi, entering the Union on December 10, 1817. There never was an official 19-star flag; both of these states were represented on the 20-star flag that became official on July 4, 1818. However this flag has nothing to do with any of that. It was not made in 1816-17. Given the materials, size and type of flag, I believe this is a “political†flag dating from 1860-61. As you know, the American political system began to break down over slavery in the 1850s. In 1860-61 a number of Southern states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. Before that happened, however, a number of people of differing political beliefs began to make flags expressing their point of view by using a limited number of stars and stripes to represent the “true†states.

    Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, once proposed the Northern states have a flag with the canton divided diagonally bearing the appropriate number of stars and the top 7 and a half stripes. The South would get the rest of the stripes and the other half of the canton with the appropriate number of stars. This was supposed to encourage reconciliation some day. Lincoln would have none of that. He decreed all flags should have the full complement of stars despite some states having taken themselves out of the Union. He said “While some of us may differ in political opinions, still we ... all believe in the maintenance of the Union, of every star and every stripe of the glorious flag... “. The math on your flag is fairly easy to read. The normal US Flag has 13 stripes for the original states. If you subtract the slaveholding original states (and including Maryland which some did and some did not include), you’d get just eight states left. As for the stars, the proper number in 1861 was 34 following the admission of Kansas on January 29, 1861. Subtract the slave states and you’re left with 19. There were many 19-star flags made in early 1861.
  10. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    Long shot here, in fact I dpn't even know if you will read this post.

    But I recently bought a flag on eBay (imagine that :)) and noted when it came, it came from a Cincinnati address, so did you happen to just sell me a wonderful Australia flag - it looks to be 3'x6', all sewn panel construction on cotton, and with sister clips (ingelfield clips).

    let's see if the add a photo feature likes me today:
    AussieFlag (480x225).jpg
  11. Two Fish Apparel

    Two Fish Apparel New Member

    Hello David,

    I still visit this site frequently and enjoy reading about other people's collections. Thank you to Peter Ansoff for resetting my password as I had lost it in a recent computer change. The flag looks beautiful but didn't come from me. There must be another Cincinnati collector. I've limited myself to US Flags only - it's all that my wife will let me afford. Perhaps you could send the Ebay seller a response and suggest that he also join the forum.

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