U.S. Southern Exclusionary Flag, 1850s.

Sub-collection: U.S. 15 Star Flags

15 Star U.S. Southern Exclusionary Flag, 1850's.
This 15 star 13 stripe cotton flag is machine sewn and thus excludes it from belonging to the period of 1795 to 1818, when 15 star flags were current. Furthermore, flags from that period correctly bore 15 stripes. However, the juxtaposition of a 15 star canton with the 13 stripes of the field have lead to the speculation that this 15 star, 13 stripe flag is an southern exclusionary flag from the 1850 to 1860 period.

The occurrence of numerous machine sewn United States flags with noticeably less stars than the correct number corresponding to the states in the Union was unexplained for years. However, the late vexillologist Howard Madaus broke new ground in the landmark book The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict, which he co-authored with Dr. Whitney Smith, wherein he coined the term 'exclusionary flags'.

These are flags that, for whatever reason, were intentionally constructed to exclude states. They seem to have originated in New England after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act which was included as one of the elements of the Missouri Compromise which allowed slave-catchers to roam Free states in search of runaway slaves. This so outraged abolitionists, especially in New England, that some called for the secession of the North.

As a result, abolitionists began utilizing flags with stars for the Free states only. Correspondingly southern exclusionary flags displayed United States with 15 stars and 13 stripes, the 15 stars signifying the states in which human slavery was allowed.

It is likely that this is such a flag. Because the flag has stars only on the obverse it is likely that this was for indoor display, perhaps at a states rights or secession rally or political gathering.

Actual flags of this type and with this configuration of stripes and stars are quite rare.

ZFC Significant Flag
Item is Framed

• Sold via Cowan's Auction, Cincinnati, Ohio, to the Zaricor Flag Collection, 2008.


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

Mastai, Boleslaw and Marie-Louise D'Otrange, The Stars and The Stripes: The American Flag as Art and as History from the Birth of the republic to the Present, Knopf, New York, 1973.

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

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection

Hoist & Fly

Width of Hoist 69.75
Length of Fly 67.25


Width of Union/Canton 22.5
Length of Union/Canton 20.75


Comments on Star Measurements diagonal 2-3-5-3-2
stars vary from 3.25 to 3.675
Size of Stars 3.25


Width of 1st Stripe 5.5
Width of 3rd Stripe 5.5
Width of 8th Stripe 5.25
Width of Last Stripe 5.25
Size of Hoist 1.5


Is it framed? yes
Frame Height 60
Frame Length 96


Number of Stars 15
How are the stars embeded? Sewn
Are there stars on obverse? yes
Are there stars on reverse? no
Star Pattern diagonal rows 2-3-5-3-2


Number of Stripes 15
Color of Top Stripe Red
Color of Bottom Stripe Red
Has a Blood Stripe? no


Nation Represented United States


Fabric Cotton


Stitching Machine


Comments on Method of Attachmen Sleeve in two parts
Method of Attachment Sleeve


Applique Sides Single Sided = Design on one side only


All original documents and drawings are held in the Zaricor Flag Collection Archives.
All original documents and drawings are held in the Zaricor Flag Collection Archives.
Research Documents

Public Copy & Signs
All original documents and drawings are held in the Zaricor Flag Collection Archives.


Condition Good
Damage Used, stained worn
Displayable yes


Date 1850 to 1860