Obverse watermarked

Obverse watermarked

Reverse watermarked

Reverse watermarked


U.S. 16 Star Grand Luminary Exclusionary Flag.

Sub-collection: U.S. 16 Star Flags

16 Star U.S. "Grand Luminary" Northern Abolitionist Exclusionary Flag.
This wonderful, hand-sewn, 38-1/2 x 53, all cotton flag with a sewn rope hoist has a central star (6) and 15 additional 3-1/2" stars sewn through in the shape of a great star. The seamstress or seamstresses who made this showed great skill in their hand stitching, as can be seen in photos here. The colors are still vibrant. It would be difficult to obtain a better flag of this pattern.

Flags bearing 16 stars and 13 stripes were never officially manufactured by the United States; however numerous surviving examples confirm both their existence and use. 16 Star flags were made to indicate the admission of Tennessee as the 16th state on June 1, 1796; and would remain accurate until the admission of Ohio on Mar 1, 1803; a period of 7 years and 9 months.

Sixteen star flags also enjoyed a re-birth in the mid-19th century for use by the US Nay as an ensign for small boats, but generally these flags had their stars arranged in rows. This flag represents a design whose popularity spanned nearly the entire 19th century. The Grand Luminary star pattern, (sometimes called great-star or great flower) represented the idea of the national motto 'E Pluribus Unum' - From Many, One. Each star is separate and distinct, yet all work together to create a unified pattern; a union of states.

It is highly likely that this is an exclusionary flag. The Fugitive Slave Act passed as one of the elements of the Compromise of 1850 allowed slave catchers to roam the North in search of anyone who had escaped slavery. The presence of these individuals in New England particularly enraged abolitionist elements, with some extremists going so far as to advocate Northern secession from the Union rather than submission to the outrages of the Fugitive Slave Act. Exclusionary Stars and Stripes made during the period from 1850 to 1860 reflected that sentiment. Such flags featured stars only for the free states, excluding the 15 slave states from the total represented. This 16-star flag, therefore, is thought to date from September 1850 to May of 1858 when 16 free and 15 slave states formed the Union.

ZFC Significant Flag

• Sold via James D. Julia Auction, to the Zaricor Flag Collection, 2007.


Samuel Chester Reid, Wikipedia, 24 October 2011, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Chester_Reid

Great Star Flags (U.S.), Flags of the World, 25 October 2011, from: http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/us-gstar.html

Martucci, David, Great Star Flags, US Flags: Part 5, 25 October 2011, from: http://www.midcoast.com/~martucci/flags/us-hist6.html

Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act, Wikipedia, 28 October 2011, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Law_of_1850

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

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection

Hoist & Fly

Width of Hoist 38
Length of Fly 53.25


Width of Union/Canton 20.75
Length of Union/Canton 21


Comments on Star Measurements Star size vary, large center star is 6", 15 small stars are 3.75.
Size of Stars 3.75


Width of 1st Stripe 2.75
Width of 3rd Stripe 2.75
Width of 8th Stripe 3
Width of Last Stripe 2.75
Size of Hoist 0.25


Is it framed? no


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


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


Description of Crest/Emblem Great Star or Grand Luminary Flag


Nation Represented United States


Fabric Cotton
Comments on Fabric Cotton sheeting


Stitching Hand


Type of Weave Plain


Comments on Method of Attachmen Through header
Method of Attachment Loops


Applique Sides Single Faced = Mirror Image Reverse


Condition Good
Damage Very good overall with several tears and separations, scattered staining.
Displayable yes


Date 1851 - 1858