26 Star U.S. Grand Luminary Flag - "Gildersleeve Meteor Flag".
Predominantly, old flags come without any documentation indicating their date of manufacture, ownership over the years, or the design symbolism intended by the maker. Nevertheless careful analysis of large numbers of flags by conservators and vexillologists makes it possible to establish certain principles that can be applied to analyze newly found flags. Fortunately, variations in design characteristics are much more likely to be found in old American flags than in those from other countries.

This 26-star Stars & Stripes has the name S. Gildersleeve written on its heading. In 1828 Sylvester Gildersleeve created the Gildersleeve Shipbuilding Company in Portland, Connecticut, although his family had been doing work in that profession since the 18th century. This flag was probably associated with one of their vessels, although it is too early to have been made for the ship 'S. Gildersleeve' which was constructed in 1854 and burned by the C.S.S. Alabama during the Civil War.

Collector Boleslaw Mastai attributed fanciful names to star patterns appearing on his flags. Most of these names are not known to have been used historically. He called this the' Gildersleeve Comet Flag' and saw it rushing headlong into space, trailing its stars of glory. While the star pattern does not seem arbitrary, other interpretations of its symbolism are possible. Perhaps it represents an attempt to express the dynamic expansion of the United States during the Industrial Revolution by likening it to a streaking meteor or shooting star.
This flag was in use during the presidencies of Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison and/or John Tyler.

Exhibition History:
Moraga Room, Officers Club, Presidio of San Francisco, California January 2003

Special Memorial Day Display, Suspended from ceiling of Moraga Room, Presidio of San Francisco's Officers Club, Memorial Day May 2003

Exhibited at Star Spangled Banner Flag House, Mar-July 2004

Exhibited at the 2004 Presidential Debate, Washington University, St. Louis

Baltimore Star Spangled Banner Flag House 3/2004

Publication History:
Madaus, Howard M., Dr, Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict. Santa Cruz: VZ Publications, 2006, pp. 40-41.
Depicted in 1973 cat. p. 40, #42
Depicted in Mastai (1973), pp. 114-5.
Depicted in American Flags, p. 24
Depicted in The American Flag, pp. 40-1.

Schrambling, Regina, "A Lifelong Pledge." Collection, Published by Robb Report, June 2014, p. 50.

Provenance: Acquired by the Zaricor Flag Collection in 2002 from the Mastai Flag Collection through auction at Sothebys of New York City (Lot No. 55.). ZFC0606

ZFC Significant Flag


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.

Mastai, Boleslaw and Marie-Louise D'Otrange, Our Unknown Flag: Almost 250 Flags and Artifacts from the famous Mastai Collection, New York, Boleslaw Mastai, Amagansett, Exhibited 14 June -28 July 1978US Customhouse, Plaza Lever, 6 World trade Center

Cooper, Grace Rogers, Thirteen-Star Flags: Keys to Identification, Smithsonian Institution Press, City of Washington, 1973.

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

Records of the Gildersleeve Shipbuilding Company (Coll. 113), Mystic Seaport Muniscript Collection Register, 27 October 2011, from: http://library.mysticseaport.org/manuscripts/coll/coll113.cfm

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection