U.S. Made Spanish Flag - Civil Ensign,1785-1931

Sub-collection: Howard M. Madaus - Civil War & 19th Century Military Collection

A Spanish merchant flag in ceremony and salute
In the 19th century, vessels in the United States Navy often spent years away from their home ports, encountering many foreign vessels on the high seas and in visits abroad. On ceremonial occasions, including American national holidays, it was customary for ships in harbor to "dress overall" by displaying multiple flags as decoration. For this reason each vessel carried a collection of the naval ensigns of foreign countries in different sizes. These were also used in rendering a courtesy salute when foreign vessels were encountered. This flag, acquired from a 1997 auction, was probably used for this purpose.

The name of the manufacturer, W. F. Scheible of Philadelphia, is clearly marked on the heading. That firm was in existence from 1864 to 1866, but the flag was designed in 1785 and used until 1931. Among the official national flags of Spain it was one for exclusive use by privately-owned vessels. This Spanish merchant flag was most likely made for the purposes of trading with Cuba. It combined the national colors of Spain (yellow and red) in a distinctive pattern that would not be confused with the war ensign of navy ships nor with the special ensigns granted to certain other Spanish vessels. There is no special symbolism associated with the five stripes.

The text printed on the hoist reads: "W.F.SCHEIBLE MAKER, PHILAD'A." This flag was part of the H. Madaus sub-collection and accompanying documents indicate that it was in use circa 1863 - 1865.

ZFC Significant Flag


Historical Flags 1785-1931 (Spain), Wikipedia, 17 November 2011, from: http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/es1785.html

Bazelon, Bruce S., William F. McGuinn, A Directory of American Military Goods Dealers & Makers 1785-1915, Manassas, REF Typesetting & Publishing, Inc., 1999.

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection

Hoist & Fly

Width of Hoist 70
Length of Fly 44


Width of 1st Stripe 9.5
Width of 3rd Stripe 9.5
Width of Last Stripe 8.5
Size of Hoist 2.25


Is it framed? no


How are the stars embeded? Sewn
Are there stars on obverse? no
Are there stars on reverse? no


Number of Stripes 5
Color of Top Stripe Yellow
Color of Bottom Stripe Yellow
Has a Blood Stripe? no
Comments on Stripes 2nd stripe: red 7.75"


Description of Crest/Emblem Two horizontal red stripes on a field of yellow.


Nation Represented Spain


Fabric Wool
Comments on Fabric Bunting


Stitching Machine
Comments on Stitching Hand stitched in several places


Thread Material Cotton


Type of Weave Plain


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


Applique Sides Single Faced = Mirror Image Reverse


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 Unstitched in some places.
Displayable yes


Date 1860's