15 Star U.S. Jack- Merchant ship Vineyard, 1796-1818.
As with British maritime traditions, Americans had three flags on their naval vessels: The ensign at the stern, the jack at the prow, and the commission pennant at the main mast. The jack was a "union flag." That is, it showed the constituent parts of the country. The ensign incorporated the union as its canton. Thus, from the very first Stars and Stripes variant of the Revolutionary period, the American jack has been blue with the white stars corresponding to the number of states. The size of the canton for the ensign is the same as the size of the jack. Therefore, the jack in this collection must have required a very large ensign.
Privately-owned vessels were not supposed to fly a jack unless they were commissioned as privateers. Nevertheless many of them used a jack in order to get the respect accorded warships on the high seas. It is therefore quite possible that the jack in the collection was used by a merchantman, although it might also have come from a U.S. Navy vessel. Although 15-star flags were used for almost a quarter-of-a-century, they are extremely rare.
1802 oil painting depicting the launching of the sailing ship Fame at Salem, Massachusetts. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
The field is made of dark blue bunting, pieced horizontally by hand. There are three horizontal rows of off-white cotton, each containing 5 stars of 5 points each and totaling 15 stars. These have been appliquéd to the reverse of the field and the blue bunting behind them is cut away and under-hemmed to show the form of the white star from the other side of the flag. A 2-inch wide, white, linen, canvas heading finishes the hoist edge. Sleeved for display. Marked W.H. Bartlett, New Bedford, Mass., who has been identified as a 19th Century collector of whaling and nautical flags.
First Presidio Exhibit
United States Navy Fifteen Star Jack
Madaus, Howard M., Dr, Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict. Santa Cruz: VZ Publications, 2006, p. 32.
• U.S. Navy circa 1795-1818
• Ship Vineyard, sometime prior to 1818.
• Collection of W.H. Bartlett, New Bedford, MA.,until death in 1863.
• W.H. Bartlett, Estate, New Bedford, MA.
• (Presumed) W.H. Bartlett GAR Post #3 Collection, Tauton, MA
• Flayderman Collection, Fort Lauderdale, FL, until 1997.
• Sold via Butterfields, San Francisco, CA, to the Zaricor Flag Collection 1997.