26 star pennant

Discussion in 'Flag Identification and Collecting' started by navyvet, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. navyvet

    navyvet New Member

    Years ago I was given by a family member a 26 star USN commissioning pennant. It is 8 inches wide by 90 feet long. It dates from 1846 or so. Has anyone any information on such pennants?
  2. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    Hi Navyvet and welcome! Do you have any photos you can show us? I realize you probably can't capture the entire pennant but maybe the section of the stars.
  3. navyvet

    navyvet New Member

    I have tried to attach a image of the 26 start pennant. 26 stars were used from 1837 to 1845. The pennant is hanging over a railing.

  4. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    Awesome! Wow, it looks pristine! Are there any markings on the header? We have a couple of members who deal and collect antique flags and I am sure they will be impressed.
  5. navyvet

    navyvet New Member

    I inherited the pennant, along with a couple different pennants and three old charts, probably 25 years ago. They were passed down from an ancestor (died in 1907) who lived in Kittery Point, ME, was himself a merchant ship Captain, and worked occasionally at the Portsmouth Shipyard. One of his fellow workers and his good friend was John Haley Bellamy. How he got these pennants I am not sure; I do know that when ship were taken out of commission "stores" including the contents of the flag locker got disbursed in a variety of ways. The only marking on the 8 inch header is the letter "L"
  6. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    It is really a wonderful flag. You should contact Jeff Bridgman at info@JeffBridgman.com and he might be able to give you more information on it. He sells antique flags.
  7. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Hello Navyvet,
    I agree, that's a great pennant. Usually a 90-foot long flag is way to large to be collectible, but your pennant can be displayed in many different ways. I would be very interested in the Flag Charts you mentioned. Can you post photos of those, too?
    Nick A
    Columbia Maryland
  8. navyvet

    navyvet New Member

    @Nick. I should have been more specific - the charts are nautical charts not flag charts. I have done some more research and have found that my ancestor John Lawrence was part of the local crew recruited by Howard Stansbury, captain of the U.S.L.S Abert - the first iron steamer on the Great Lakes, commissioned about 1842,and the recommissioned as the "Surveyor" in 1844. Stansbury had the Abert in Portsmouth, NH, doing a survey of Portsmouth Harbor. I have Lawrence's small "diary" listing the crews - both permanent and local. I believe that the pennant I have is may well be the Abert's commissioning pennant.
  9. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    Not that you would want to sell it but given the pennant's provenance and personal history it could fetch some serious coin.
  10. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Oops, sorry. One track mind here.

    Nick A
  11. navyvet

    navyvet New Member

    Have to do some more research on Great Lakes vessels. Will keep you posted.
  12. flagcollector

    flagcollector New Member

    Hi NavyVet,

    Thanks for posting the photos of your family flag. You can tell a lot from the photos you posted of the pennant. First, it's certainly authentic and of the period. The stars of the flag are sewn using a technique known as "single-applique" where the blue is cut through, and a single piece of white cotton fabric is used for the star; it has a "finished" side which looks more trimmed, and a "stitched" size where you can see where the folded edge of the white star is stitched to the blue wool bunting. The blue portion of the flag, as well as the red and white pennant stripes, are made of wool bunting. High quality wool bunting from this period retains its color well, and being an animal fiber, rather than a vegetable fiber, it's much better suited to weathering the elements. That's one of the reasons why early wool bunting flags and pennants from the early part of the 19th century have stood up surprisingly well. You can see examples of such early ship's flags here:

    Rare Flags - Antique American Flags, Historic American Flags

    Alan Granby and Janice Hyland of Hyland Granby Antiques published a fantastic book called "Flying The Colors", which you can find at their website Marine antiques and marine art at Hyland Granby Antiques. The book is a bit expensive, but the inside photos show a large number of ship's paintings from the early- to mid-19th century, many of which are commercial vessels, flying variations of American Flags, Stars and Stripes Pennants (such as yours), Eagle Ensigns and Ship's Name Pennants. They were flown on official government and navy vessels, as well as merchant vessels, steam ships, paddle boats, etc., and would have been prevalent on Great Lakes vessels and those traveling up and down the St. Lawrence and Hudson River. Pennants such as yours must have been beautiful to behold, as they hung down, sometimes 100 feet or more, from the main masts of the ships, gently fluttering in the breeze.

    Navy Commissioning Pennants were named such because they were flown when the ship was actively commissioned and the commanding commissioned officer was present aboard the ship. But this wasn't the only US Navy use of this kind of pennant. The same style of pennant was also used as a "Homeward Bound Pennant". You can read more about the Navy use of these kinds of pennants on the Flags of the World site, where Joe McMillan and Rick Wyatt post additional information on the subject.

    Navy - Command and Commissioning Pennants (U.S.)

    All things considered, the documentation you have on its ties to the U.S.L.S. Albert is great to have, and I'd recommend that it always remain with the pennant to preserve your family's maritime history. These early style pennants are very scarce and valuable, they don't turn up often, especially in such wonderful condition.

    Here are a few additional photo links showing what this kind of pennant would have looked like on a ship under sail:

    USS Kearsarge, Civil War Era, Painting in the Naval Academy Collection:

    The Ship "Macon", c1830
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Ship "Macon"

    Thanks for sharing the pennant with the forum,


    Anthony Iasso
    Rare Flags - Antique American Flags, Historic American Flags
  13. navyvet

    navyvet New Member

    Anthony, Thank you for all the information you shared and the references to various works and collections. I will certainly continue to research the history of this pennant. I am fortunate to have some friends who have been connected with Great Lakes Maritime History and have enlisted their help in this search for information and possibilities. One of my immediate tasks in make an accurate transcription of the small notebook that gives the history of my ancestor's service on the Abert. This is an unfolding (appropriate perhaps for a flag) adventure.

    Alan Cutter

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