U.S. 25 Star Flag - John Ledyard, 1836 - 1837.

Sub-collection: U.S. 25 Star Flags

25 Stars U.S. Flag Property of the Ledyard Family, 1836 - 1837.
This (approx.) 56 x 96, hand sewn, wool bunting, United States flag, with single appliqué inset cotton sheeting stars, with a 2 canvas heading, finished for outdoor use was formerly the property of Dr. Henry Childs Ledyard.

This flag was displayed as an ensign on a boat chartered by Dr. Ledyard. The dentist would celebrate the American Fourth of July national holiday by sailing the waters of the "Golden Horn," or Strait of Bosporus, which is the body of water separating Europe from Asia and Istanbul (formerly Constantinople). An ensign is the flag that identifies nationality at sea, usually flown from the stern or gaff of small boats. According to family history and lore this was quite an event, inspiring the Turks to refer to them as "those crazy Americans."

According to the family, Dr. Ledyard was careful to observe the appropriate nautical protocol in displaying the Ottoman ensign as a courtesy flag from the starboard spreader. This is a maritime tradition wherein a ship captained by foreign nationals recognizes the local sovereignty of the waters in which they are cruising.

The flag passed to Dr. Henry Childs Ledyard's son, Henry Horatio Ledyard, of Aptos, California, who ran a wholesale grocery/food service business in Santa Cruz, California. Mr. Ledyard would occasionally display the flag at his home. On at least one occasion, in 1949, the flag was displayed at an antiques show fundraising event by the local chapter of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA).

The flag eventually passed to his grandson Dr. David Glass of Lodi, California who in January 2007 transferred it to the Zaricor Flag Collection, the largest private flag collection in the United States.

The history of the flag prior to the 1880s is unknown, but the construction and size of the flag suggest US Naval or Maritime use. Flags with 25 starts were official for the United States from 4 July 1836 to 4 July 1837. The 25th state was Arkansas. The flag itself is not inconsistent from surviving period flags in both fabric and construction, and there is nothing about the flag, which suggests that it is anything other than a period 25 star U.S. flag.

In the 1880s Dr. Ledyard, an American dentist was practicing in Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1453 to 1923. In 1882, the then forty-six year old flag was acquired from an Ottoman curiosity shop and used for the next six years to celebrate the Fourth of July in the coastal waters of the Ottoman Empire in and around Constantinople.

Dr. Ledyard is the collateral descendant of John Ledyard, who has been called "the first American explorer." Ledyard was celebrated as one of America's greatest explorers for a few decades after his death in 1789. Ledyard was a member of Captain Cook's fateful final voyage to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). The intrepid doctor also walked across the greater part of Russia and had helped to convince his friend Thomas Jefferson that crossing the American continent was achievable. This realization led to the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific via the upper Missouri and Columbia River of the American Northwest. The explorer, John Ledyard, died in Cairo, Egypt while preparing an expedition to explore Africa.

Thomas Jefferson had portrayed Ledyard as "a man of genius, of some science, and of fearless courage and enterprise." However, the renown of the "American traveler," as John Ledyard was called, gradually faded from the national consciousness, although the explorer was referenced by Herman Melville in a foot-note of "Moby Dick."

The Ledyard family of the 19th century inherited their famous ancestor's wanderlust. As a young man, Dr. Timothy Childs Ledyard traveled from the East Coast to the California gold fields and back. Later as a dentist he left the lack of opportunity in the rural farmlands along the New York -Pennsylvania border to practice dentistry in Central America. These adventures led to his being murdered in 1870 for the gold he received in payment for his dental services.

That same fateful year, Dr. Timothy Childs Ledyard's son, Henry Childs Ledyard, had graduated from Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine. He too made his way to California, supporting himself by itinerant practice, and later opened his formal dental practice in San Jose. He sailed to the South Pacific, there befriending a South Seas chieftain sometime just prior to 1879. When the island king needed dental work, he had sent for Dr. H.C. Ledyard. The young dentist used the income from treating his royal patient to marry Miss Elizabeth Cory, the daughter of the first doctor in San Jose, California. The newlyweds departed to the Orient, to begin what the family calls "the ten year honeymoon."

Using Shanghai, China as their home and base where their son Henry Horatio Ledyard was born, the Ledyards traveled in Asia, eventually venturing to Russia. But Russia was not to hold them, and they set out to cross the Russian Empire by sleigh, this being ten years before the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway. The Ledyards arrived in St. Petersburg shortly after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. Finding the atmosphere in Russia's capital too repressive, Dr. Ledyard traveled to Constantinople, where he reestablished his dentistry practice.

While in Constantinople Dr. Ledyard was an acquaintance of the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States, General Lewis Wallace (best remembered today as the author of Ben Hur), who served in that post from 1881 to 1885. In addition to dentistry, Dr. Ledyard sometimes gave guest lectures at the Hissan Literary Society.

ZFC Significant Flag

• Acquired by Dr. Henry Childs Ledyard, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire, 1880.
• By descent to(son) Henry Horatio Ledyard, of Aptos, California.
• By descent to (son) Dr. David Glass of Lodi, California, until, 2007.
• Acquired by the Zaricor Flag Collection via private treaty from Dr. David Glass of Lodi, California, 2007.


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

Ledyard, Henry Childs, David J. Glass, editor, By Sleigh through Siberia, Lodi, David J. Glass, 1993.

John Ledyard, an American Traveller (I751-I 789), Long Island Genealogy, 11 November 2011, from:

John Ledyard, Wikipedia, 11 November 2011, from:

Lewis "Lew" Wallace, Wikipedia, 11 November 2011, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lew_Wallace

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection
Santa Crux Sentinel

Hoist & Fly

Width of Hoist 57.5
Length of Fly 97


Width of Union/Canton 31
Length of Union/Canton 42


Comments on Star Measurements 5-5-5-5-5 horizontal rows.
Single applique inset stars.
Size of Stars 5.5


Width of 1st Stripe 4.25
Width of 3rd Stripe 4.25
Width of 8th Stripe 4.5
Width of Last Stripe 2.75
Size of Hoist 1.75


Is it framed? no


Number of Stars 25
How are the stars embeded? Sewn
Are there stars on obverse? yes
Are there stars on reverse? yes
Comments on Stars Inset cotton sheeting stars, with a 2 canvas heading.
Star Pattern 5-5-5-5-5 horizontal rows.
Single applique inset stars.


Number of Stripes 13
Color of Top Stripe Red
Color of Bottom Stripe Red
Has a Blood Stripe? no
Comments on Stripes hand sewn


Nation Represented United States


Fabric Wool
Comments on Fabric Bunting


Stitching Hand


Type of Thread 3 Ply
Thread Material Cotton


Type of Weave Plain


Comments on Method of Attachmen Eyelet or grommet through header
Method of Attachment Whip-stitched


Applique Sides Single Faced = Mirror Image Reverse



Research Documents


Condition Good
Damage Used
Displayable yes


Date 1836