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ZFC0029

U.S. 16 Star Navy Boat Flag.

Sub-collection: Star Spangled Banner Flag House

16 Star U.S. Navy Boat Flag - Navy Yard Charleston, 1850's.
This is a U.S. Navy Boat Ensign (Boat Flag) from the Naval Yard in Boston, Massachusetts, 1854-63. According to the Flag House records, the ensign once belonged to an elderly man in Abbesville, Alabama. After his death the flag was found in an old sideboard. The elderly man told the individual who received the flag from him that his grandfather, a Southern sympathizer, owned many old pre-Revolutionary articles and in his work took many mules and horses into Virginia, a trip which may have required need of the flag. The elderly man explained that he was trading mules and horses from Virgina into Union lines.. The story implies these trips were some what frequent and his grandfather felt no danger but the flag was his back up increasing his chances to get thru the lines do his business and return home to Virginia. He found it convenient to take this flag with him on trips when he needed to cross into the Union lines and the confederates gave him no trouble when they heard his story..

The field is composed of thirteen alternating, horizontal, red and white wool/bunting stripes, stitched together by hand. The top and bottoms stripes are red. Inset into the upper hoist corner and extending through seven stripes is a dark blue wool/bunting union canton 23.5" x 20.5". 16 white cotton, 5-pointed stars, each 3" across, are hand sewn on the obverse and reverse sides in four horizontal rows of four stars each. The flag is finished with a 2" wide white linen canvas heading bearing a hand sewn button hole eyelet at each end. Marked in ink upon the heading are the inscriptions: "6 Ft. BOAT ENSIGN" and "N Y C" (the latter indicating manufacture at the United States Naval Yard at Charlestown (Boston Harbor).

Exhibition History:

Second Presidio Exhibit, 2003 GALLERY III
(ZFC0029)
16-Star United States Navy Boat Flag

Provenance:
• Navy Yard Charleston, Boston, Mass., 1850s.
• Used by unnamed Southern sympathizer in Abbesville, Alabama, 1861- 1865.
• By descent to Colonel & Mrs. Jesse J. Hinson, Baltimore, MD, until 1966.
• Gifted to The Star Spangled Banner Flag House & Museum, until 1996.
• Acquired by the Zaricor Flag Collection from the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Collection of Baltimore, MD. in 1996.


Publication History:

Cooper, Grace Rogers, Thirteen Star Flags: Keys to Identification. Washington D.C., 1973, pp. 33-34.

Madaus, Howard M., Dr, Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict. Santa Cruz: VZ Publications, 2006, p. 67.



Provenance:
Acquired by the Zaricor Flag Collection (ZFC0029) in 1996 from the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Collection of Baltimore, MD.

ZFC Significant Flag
Item is Framed

Sources:



Madaus, Howard M.- Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict, VZ Publications, Santa Cruz, 2006.

Cooper, Grace Rogers, Thirteen-Star Flags: Keys to Identification, Smithsonian Institution Press, City of Washington, 1973.

Preble, George Henry, The History of the Flag of the United States of America, Boston, Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1894.

US Navy "Boat" Flag, Dave Martucci's Flag Pages, 14 November 2011, from: http://www.vexman.net/smalboat.htm

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection



Hoist & Fly

Width of Hoist 38
Length of Fly 71

Union/Canton

Width of Union/Canton 22.25
Length of Union/Canton 20.25

Stars

Size of Stars 3

Stripes

Width of 1st Stripe 3
Width of 3rd Stripe 3.5
Width of 8th Stripe 2.75
Width of Last Stripe 3
Size of Hoist 2

Frame

Is it framed? yes
Frame Height 44
Frame Length 78

Stars

Number of Stars 16
How are the stars embeded? Sewn
Are there stars on obverse? yes
Are there stars on reverse? yes

Stripes

Number of Stripes 13
Color of Top Stripe Red
Color of Bottom Stripe Red
Has a Blood Stripe? no

Nationality

Nation Represented United States

Fabric

Fabric Wool
Comments on Fabric Bunting

Stitching

Stitching Hand

Documentation

Documents


Drawings

Research Documents
Cover

Cover

p.33

p.33

p.34

p.34

Public Copy & Signs



Condition

Condition Good
Damage Two larges losses (3")-Old repairs, covering original stars done w/ heavy thread damaging-discolored
Displayable yes

Date

Date Civil War Period

Exhibits

Exhibition Copy Second Presidio Exhibit, 2003 GALLERY III
(ZFC0029)
16-Star United States Navy Boat Flag
Date: 18571861
Media: Wool bunting with cotton stars; hand-stitched
Comment: Although this flag bears only 16 stars, it does not date from immediately after 1796 when Tennessee became the Unions sixteenth state. Rather it is clearly a U.S. Navy boat flag dating from 1855-1860. It is one of the boat flags of the first pattern adopted, characterized by a reduced complement of stars, as is clear from its design and the NYC (Navy Yard Charlestown) stamped on its heading. From 1798 through the mid-1850s U.S. Navy ensigns manufactured at navy yards had as many stars as there were states in the Union. By 1855, when the total of the states had grown to 31, it was discovered that the great number of stars in the canton of smaller ensigns, when viewed from a distance, became indeterminate. By 1857 authorities at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston had resolved this problem by reducing the number of stars to 16 for the five authorized boat flag sizes. While it is possible that local abolitionists influenced that decision, it is more likely that practicality and aesthetics induced the flag makers to choose the four rows of four stars each as the star pattern. By 1862, the navy yards were using a different pattern involving only 13 stars.
PDF for Publications
13 Star Flags - Key to Identification

Publications

Publication Copy Cooper, Grace Rogers, Thirteen Star Flags: Keys to Identification. Washington D.C., 1973, pp. 33-34.

Sixteen-Star Flags
The sixteen-star style was not adopted as official. There are no known surviving sixteen-star flags contemporary with the period of sixteen states from June 1, 1796 to March 1, 1803. At least, that is, none from this period have come to light. (Since this was published some have been discovered.) There were, however, sixteen-star flags. Another sixteen-star is in the collection of The Flag House, Baltimore, Maryland. (It is now ZFC0029.) Although it is not stamped with a date, it seems to be of the same period (1861) and is stamped "6 ft Boat Ensign NYC." The bunting is the same single-ply warp type. There are two selvedge to selvedge widths in the blue; one is 9 inches and the other is 12 inches, the size suggested by Farrington in his letter 1869 to the brigadier general of the quartermaster station in New York City." (See PDF of book below)



Madaus, Howard M., Dr, Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict. Santa Cruz: VZ Publications, 2006, p. 67.

16-Star United States Navy Boat Flag
Although this flag bears only 16 stars, it does not date from immediately after 1796 when Tennessee became the Unions sixteenth state. Rather it is clearly a U.S. Navy boat flag dating from 1857 to 1861 during the presidency of James Buchanan. It is one of those boat flags of the first pattern adopted, characterized by a reduced complement of stars, as is clear from its design and the NYC (Navy Yard Charlestown) stamped on its heading. From 1798 through the mid-1850s U.S. Navy ensigns manufactured at navy yards had as many stars as there were states in the Union. By 1855, when the total of the states had grown to 31, it was discovered that the great number of stars in the canton of smaller ensigns, when viewed from a distance, became indeterminate. By at least 1857 authorities at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston had resolved this problem by reducing the number of stars to 16 for the 5 authorized boat flag sizes. While it is possible that local abolitionists influenced that decision, it is more likely that practicality and aesthetics induced the flag makers to choose the four rows of four stars each as the star pattern. By 1862, the navy yards were using a different pattern involving only 13 stars.
Date: 1857 1861
Size: 38" hoist x 71" fly
Media: Wool bunting with cotton stars; hand-stitched
Provenance: Acquired by the Zaricor Flag Collection in 1996 from the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Collection of Baltimore, MD. Gifted to the Flag House by Col. & Mrs. Jesse J. Hinson of Baltimore in 1966.
ZFC0029