13 Star US Flag, Privateer Ensign, Revolutionary War Period.
This flag belonged to Revolutionary Privateer Minerva and it is believed to be the only named ensign to have survived, it became part of the acclaimed collection of noted antique dealer Mr. Boleslaw Mastai and his wife Marie-Louise d'Otrange Mastai, formerly of New York City, and later Amagansett, Long Island. Their collection was the result of fifty years of collecting, research and study by the late husband-wife team. Mastai, started collecting in the mid 20th century and amassed to greatest private flag collection in the United States; which he detailed in his ground breaking book The Stars and The Stripes; The American Flag from Birth of the Republic to the Present, published by Alfred Knopf, New York 1973, and was hailed as a revelation of the American Flag as art and as social history.
According to Mastai this was an early Stars & Stripes from the famed Revolutionary War privateer Minerva . When the 13 United Colonies declared their Independence, the infant Continental Navy had few ships, and would only commission a meager 31 ships. To augment their small fleet Letters of Marque were issued to private armed merchant vessels. Commissioned as privateers, they were to prey on enemy merchant vessels.
On July 1781, the merchantman Hannah, flying the British flag, was captured. It was sailed to New London, CT as a privateer's prize of the Connecticut ship Minerva , under the command of Captain Dudley Saltonstall. She was the largest maritime prize captured during the Revolutionary War. Her manifest was West India goods and munitions. But perhaps most galling was her additional cargo of personal supplies and baggage for the British officers stationed in New York City. The value was estimated at 80,000 pounds sterling.
Dudly Saltonstall (1738-1796) was a Boston captain, merchant, and privateersman in the French and Indian War. As a Captain of the Continental Navy during Revolutionary War he was given command of the Alfred, Commodore Esek Hopkins' flagship which successfully attacked New Providence in the Bahamas for munitions. In 1779 he was made Commodore of the Penobscot Expedition, which ended in a disaster for which he was blamed and dismissed from the Navy. He then turned profitably to privateering.
The capture of the Hannah spurred the British to punish New London for its success at privateering it was ruthlessly attacked by troops lead by the traitor Benedict Arnold, who had been born only a few miles away, in Norwich, CT and was eager for a command to demonstrate his recently rediscovered allegiance to King George III.
After the Revolutionary War this flag passed to a shipmate and friend of Saltonstalls, Captain John Spear who preserved it.
First Presidio Exhibit
Second Presidio Exhibit
Gallery One Copy 2003
Night of Flags
In celebration of George Washington's Birthday
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in California
Patriotic Services Committee
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Octagon House, San Francisco
5:30 pm 7:30 pm
The Stars and The Stripes; The American Flag from Birth of the Republic to the Present, published by Alfred Knopf, New York 1973
• Flown on the Privateer Minerva
• Gifted to Captain John Spear by Captain Dudley Saltonstall, 1781
• Acquired by Boleslaw Mastai of NYC.
• Exhibited in 1973 at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth Texas, and in 1978 at Building 6, World Trade Center, New York City.
• Part of the Mastai Collection until 2002
• Acquired by ZFC at auction from the Mastai Estate via Sotheby's in NYC, 2002.