13 Star U.S. Merchant Ensign, 4-5-4 Star design, Early Federal Period.
The early history of this flag is unknown, but it originates from the personal collection of noted collector William H. Guthman, founder of Guthman Americana in Westport, Connecticut where he was a respected dealer, scholar and author, and was considered a preeminent authority on Colonial and Federal period militaria.

Bill Guthman, an American-history buff since his youth, became interested in military antiques in 1966 from his profession as a textile-manufacturing executive. As a prominent antiques dealer he came to specialize in historical military Americana and helped make them noticed in the collecting world. Mr. Guthman collected artifacts of the French, Indian and American Revolutionary Wars; and was one of the very first individuals to consider militaria as folk art.

There is probably no other 13 star American flag better known to the general public than the "Betsy Ross design" with its 13 red and white stripes and single ring of 13, white 5-point stars. Historians today think that most such flags date from the years 1777-1795, when the 13 star flag was official had rows of stars and not constellations. The reason for this, on sewn flags, was largely practical. It is easier to sew stars onto flags in rows rather than geometric shapes. The five point star is easier to make and easier to see. Evidenced by surviving examples and period illustrations documenting 18th century arrangement for the stars in the United States flag, the 4-5-4 star pattern is both one of the first and one of the most common designs.

Both stars and stripes stood for the 13 original states - Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island. During the administration of President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. The Lewis and Clark Expedition during those years laid the basis for later American claims to sovereignty in the West.

This flag may well be one of the earliest United States flags in the Zaricor Flag Collection. While the use of cotton stars suggests to some production after 1800; recent scholarship indicates both the presence and use of cotton threads prior to 1793. Recent textile analysis suggests this flag is contemporary of the revolution period (circa 1800). The woolen stripes have selvedges typical of early hand-loomed material and the flag is hand-stitched. The finishing details indicate that a professional manufacturer made this flag, e.g. the finely crafted linen hand whipped-stitched eyelets on the hoist. Interestingly, the marking "1 ½" on the flags cotton heading refers to a flag manufactured to specific fly dimensions; in this case one and a half yards or 54". As a result of extensive usage, the fly has been trimmed and sewn again and is now only 48". The sizeable marking on the heading is more typical of flags manufactured as stock items rather than individually handcrafted on special order. One of the earliest identified flag manufacturers in the United States was Rebecca Young of Philadelphia and Baltimore. She advertised in the newspapers around 1803 that she had ready-made flags. This flag might well be one of her products.

Exhibition History:
First Presidio Exhibit
Thirteen-Star, United States Merchant Ships Ensign

Second Presidio Exhibit Gallery One Copy 2003
13-Star United States Merchant Ship Ensign

Private Showing
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
5:30pm - 7:30pm

Publication History:
Crump, Anne, David Studarus, photographer, "A Grand Old Obsession." American Spirit: Daughters of the American revolution Magazine: July/August 2003: P.20.

Madaus, Howard M., Dr, Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict. Santa Cruz: VZ Publications, 2006, p. 17.

• William Guthman of Westport, CT, until 1992.
• Acquired by purchase by the Zaricor Flag Collection, 1992.

ZFC Significant Flag
Item is Framed


Madaus, Howard M.- Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict, VZ Publications, Santa Cruz, 2006. P 17.

Goody, Rabbit, ZFC2497 Analysis Report, examination and research for Ben Zaricor, April 2009, Zaricor Flag Collection Archives

Beach, Laura, Noted Scholar and Dealer William H. Guthman Dies, Antiques and Arts Online, 24 October 2011, from:

The William Guthman Collection, 24 October 2011, from:

The William Guthman Sale, Maine Antique Digest, 24 October 2011, from: http://maineantiquedigest.com/articles_archive/articles/mar03/guth0303.htm

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection