Making historical reproductions - help?

Discussion in 'American Flag History' started by Jennifer, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. Jennifer

    Jennifer New Member


    I'm sometime this year wanting to make several correct-as-possible historical flags.

    One is a (scaled down) copy of the 15-star "Star Spangled Banner" sewn from wool. That I think I've pretty much gotten figured out.

    More confusing to me though is copies of both the SC Gadsden and MA Pine Tree/Appeal to Heaven flags.

    I've gotten as far as seeing I need lightweight wool or silk, period dyed.
    However, even after peering through [ur=]Standards and Colors of the Revolution[/url], I can't find any specific information on whether I should embroider, paint, or applique the images themselves. Lots of detail on images - very little in most cases on how those images were *made*.

    Some are sewn, some embroidered, some painted - a couple sound like they're painted with different images on each side. But other than a general "fine detail is often painted but occasionally embroidered" I'm not seeing any good rules of thumb for what I should be doing for the two flags I want to make.

    I don't suppose anyone can offer advice on the best way to proceed?

    Thank you!
  2. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    Hi Jennifer,
    I don't think there is enough definitive evidence to know for sure how the symbolic devices were placed on the flags you asked about. It could even be a combination of one or more methods you metioned. Maybe some of our other members might have some information to prove me wrong. My guess and choice for the snake on the Gadsden flag and the tree for the MA flag would be appliqued. (You might have to paint the snake's features). Insofar as material, silk and cotton are still available but you might have to shop around to get the right weave and thickness for a flag. I am not sure if you will find the right type of wool bunting for flags as that type of wool bunting is not being made anymore as far as I know, again I could be wrong. There is plenty of wool material out there but not in the type weave and thickness you would need for an accurate reproduction. Just from working with reproduction Confederate flags we have had to use a synthetic material that mimics wool bunting. I wish you much luck and please send us pictures!
  3. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hello, Jennifer -- welcome to the forum!

    To start with, we don't really know what either of those two flags really looked like. There are no surviving examples of either one. There are no contemporary pictures of a Gadsden flag, and only one of the tree/Appeal to Heaven flag. All of the current illustrations and reproductions are just someone's best guess.

    As best we know, only two Gadsden flags were made during the Revolution. One was presented by Gadsden to the South Carolina Provincial Congress in February 1776, and the other was Commodore Hopkins' standard during the raid on the Bahamas in March 1776. John Jay's firsthand description of this flag said that it had on it "extremely well painted a large rattlesnake, rearing its crest and shaking its rattles, with this motto: "Don't tread on me."

    The pine tree flags were used by Washington's floating batteries and armed raiders during the Boston campaign, and there are also references to its use by various privateers. The context for this flag appears to have been almost entirely nautical, which would suggest wool rather than silk for most of them. My personal guess is that the design of the tree would typically have been fairly simple -- maybe just a green triangle with a short trunk. The only contemporary picture is a detail of a watercolor of an American floating battery made by a British officer in Boston. In it, the tree looks more deciduous than a pine tree (my guess is that it was meant to represent the Liberty Tree, which was an elm). The general arrangement looks like the modern reproductions, with the motto block lettered underneath the tree.

    While doing some research at the Library of Congress a while back, I had the opportunity to examine the original receipt for the pine tree flags that Lucy Hammett, of Plymouth MA, made for two of Washington's cruisers. It was a thrill to hold the document in my hand, but, unfortunately, it did not say anything about the design.

    Again, thanks for joining us. I second csaanv's request: please keep us informed about your project, and post some photos!


    Peter Ansoff
  4. Jennifer

    Jennifer New Member

    Thank you both!

    I'd not been able to find any record of surviving flags, but I was hoping flags of a similar age and complexity might give a hint. Bother!

    Presently I'm thinking I'll be doing them in the lightest wool I can find, and piecing/appliquéing as much as possible. Perhaps using a white inset for the snake, and embroidering the black? The Pine Tree text will be a little trickier - I'm thinking maybe a tacked on piece on each side with the text, like on the John Adams miniseries.

    I'll definitely keep you up to date!

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