13 Star Flags: How to Identify an Authentic 18c One

The familiar 13 star pattern of an 18th century U.S. national flag

The Flag Act of June 14, 1777 states “…that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field…” Nowhere does it say how the stars were to be arranged. That is why there are so many different ‘national’ standards of this period simply because the star pattern wasn’t regulated until about 1912 or so. The thirteen star flag remained official until 1795.

The operative word above is ‘official.’ The flag design changed with the addition of Vermont and Kentucky in 1795, thus changing the star pattern to 15. However, the U.S. Navy continued using the 13 star pattern flag as a small boat ensign until about 1916.

So, the 13 star flag cannot be positively identified by its star pattern alone since there were many different star patterns manufactured. The design itself cannot be considered particularly scarce because it was used routinely by the U.S. Navy for about 120 years after it was no longer an official national flag or used for national commemorations such as the centennial in 1876, and so there are many 13 star flags available.

OK then, how do you know if your 13 flag doesn’t belong to the time of George Washington?

First, it should be made of ‘worsted’ wool, linen, or silk. All of the stitching must have been in a specific hand sewn style. The star pattern in the blue canton would also be an important factor. The thread used was not cotton, but linen or silk of a certain width and manufacture. No metal grommets were ever used.

Because of these special requirements and the fact that the U.S. Navy continued to use the 13 star pattern in its small boat ensigns, there is no shortage of 13 star flags in existence.

So, do authentic 13 star, 18th century U.S. national flags exist anywhere? Unfortunately, not many authentic 13 star flags made it out of the 18th century because they were made mostly for identification by the U.S. Navy. The Army didn’t even start using the national flag until the 19th century. Regular citizens wouldn’t have displayed the national flag in a way we do today.

That’s not to say someone doesn’t have an authentic 18th century 13 star flag somewhere. It just hasn’t come to light yet. What’s in your attic?

  • Gary Gianotti


    Go check out the New London County Historical Society Nathaniel Shaw flag, authentic period flag. Keep your eyes on Philadelphia in months to come on a new flag being presented.

  • Showing the public how to identify and authentic 18th century, 13 Stars & Stripes flag, Gary Gianotti works to display the Nathaniel Ames flag at Fort Griswold, Groton Connecticut for the 2011, Memorial Day, Fort reopening.

    Connecticut Revolutionary War Patriot’s historical 13 Stars and Stripes Flag resurfaces after 200 plus years. Further research will show that Rev. Nathaniel Ames who is recognized as one of the few last living Revolutionary War veterans who lived his remaining years of his life in Wisconsin has direct birth ties to Killingly, CT.

    Ames was born in 1761, where it is believed that his birth or church records exist identifying Ames as being born in Killingly. Ames in his last recorded words stated that he was born in Situate, just over the boarder in Rhode Island? Where maternal and paternal families both resided and owned land.

    Ames had brothers and sisters documented as being born in Killingly and also Norwich that has confused family historians since the time Ames had died in 1863, after living to a ripe old age of 102. Ames maternal grandfathers John Waldo, Edward Waldo and Cornelious Waldo established themselves in Scotland, CT. since the early 1700’s.

    Ames family records state Ames at the age of six was given to his mothers father Deacon Cornelious Waldo and moved to North Stonnington until the Revolutionary War broke out. Ames was a teenager who joined the New London County Militia under Ledyard, who served as a guard in Groton, Stonnignton, where Ames help build Fort Griswold. Ames then joined the Connecticut Continental Army serving with Washington’s Army until 1781 having endured the harsh winter at Morristown. Ames then returns to Groton where he joined one of the last Connecticut Privateers ships that returned to Connecticut at the wars end, the “Marquise De Lafayette” serving under Capt. Elisha Hinman. Venturing on a two year long cruise that took him to Rhode Island, Virginia, West Indies and Holland. The ship had been delivering correspondence to none other than our Nations Second President John Adams, one our nations founding fathers of the Navy. Adams mission was to secure Dutch support to the newly formed United States, working to secure a large money loan that the Lafayette may have transported back to the United States. Ames and Adams, through the Waldo family share the same direct great grandfather to Samuel Adams.

    The Lafayette returned in August of 1783 several months before the War was officially over. Nathaniel joins a merchant ship that historians have no documentation of the ships name or history except that in the fall of 1783 it went to the West Indies. On its return voyage to New London the ship was captured and Ames was a prisoner for three months. Ames then may have been impressed into British merchant service for three more years at sea, sailing all over Europe and the Mediterranean, including the West Indies.

    Historical evidence, textile and forensics studies point to the fact that Ames, while a prisoner in Bermuda on March, 12th 1784 had signed and dated his personal 13 Stars and Stripes flag nearly a few months before the official end of the American Revolution. Today the surviving flag is now recognized as the only proven authentic period Revolutionary War 13 Stars & Stripes flag known to exist in United States History. No period 13 Stars & Stripes in US history has ever been proven authentic with solid evidence and documentation authenticating such a relic. The Ames flag because it is signed and dated, makes the flag a document itself, placing the relic in American history as the single most historically important textile ever discovered in American History.

    The flag was tracked down by Milford, Connecticut’s maritime history researcher Gary Gianotti, who was searching to find the lost symbolic identity to New England in association to the Star and Stripes origins, associated to the descendants of the pilgrims of Connecticut and Massachusetts. The flag is key to solving many forgotten and lost national mysteries that can rewrite history as we know it in preserving New Englands National Identity to the Church, Military and Government origins.

    The flags existence was brought to Gianotti’s attention a few years ago by his close history researcher associate Mr. Claude Harkins of Missouri. Harkin’s a modern day patriot who collects historical Americana and shares history with the public, found a New Jersey antique appraisal shows bulletin paper showing the flag as a relic belonging to Pennsylvania resident Mr. Donal Maloney. The show appraiser had no clue what Mr. Maloney had placed before him that day, when Mr. Maloney began his work to identify the historic flag, passed down to him from his great grandfather Michael Patton, historical flag collector and building flag decorator for historic events in the early 1900’s.

    Gianotti, contacted Mr. Maloney in the efforts to work on the research and identification of the flag that has been an on going project for more than three years. The flag still has a good deal of research work to finish the documentation and Mr. Maloney has agreed to loan the flag to Connecticut’s Revolutionary War Park Museum at Fort Giswold. Ames from a couple of family branches are bloodline to the Winthrops who’s English manor is named “Groton” origins to the City name Groton, CT and MA. In the efforts to help support the park that needs public support to keep the Park running during these hard times. The loan is pending if the CT State Parks DEP division allows the flag to go on display at Fort Griswold, when the park reopen’s next memorial Day. The exposure of the flag on public display can also be used to encourage the public with any documented information of the Ames history to bring it forth publicly. You may be one of those few persons nationally who may help in the efforts of saving thousands of Ames descendants lost documented history and flag history.

    The Ames family and flag has many priceless secrets that may shock the history academic world, especially when it comes to the identification of Nathaniel Ames, direct grandfather David Ames also Spelt Eames. Gianotti has been working closely with the Ames Society President and Nathaniel’s most direct descendant grandson, Mr. Robert Nathaniel Ames of Lexington, KY. Who has given his DNA in the efforts to unravel the 300 plus year Ames family mystery.

    A very real mystery that may prove that Rev. Nathaniel Ames is a direct descendant to the famous Theologian Dr. William Ames. Dr. Ames is recognized as one of the single most important English ministers who United the Dutch and English churches. Ames at the time of the Puritan movement was one of the most important influential educators in the the Dutch and English Churches. Dr. Ames teachings influenced the church origins of the New World and the evolution of the churches in America that made a major impact of the creation that is the United States today.

    If the history is proven that Nathaniel and his direct family is descended from Dr. Ames, son John who is said to have gone back to England where he is buried not far from his brother William. We can save thousands of families lost identities associated to the Ames families in every US State.

    Right now there is enough documented evidence, forensics and textile evidence that proves the Nathaniel Ames flag is a National Treasure Relic that is one of the only relics that can be as historically important as the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Articles of Confederation and the Great Seals of the United States.

    Gianotti quotes that the flag as a teaching tool is historically more important than our nations great documents because the history and families histories associated teach orgins of the Church, Military and Government to the first days of the founding of America and English history to family members who were Lords of southern England. Grandparents to Nathaniel who were Lords that were a direct part of the founding of the New World, Royalty, Church, British and Dutch East India Companies who are associated in the origins of where our Red and White Stripes flag originated for our Nation Flag. Including the five pointed star history associated to first usage in the American Colonies and New England associated to the Stars & Stripes.

    Any one in the public that has documented evidence of this history of Nathaniel and His family is encourage to present their documentation. You never know that you may have a priceless piece of history worth more than all the tea in China, that will associate your name to this history for the next 250 years.

    Best Regards,

    Gary Gianotti

  • The key to identification is by finding a signed and dated period flag, such as the Nathaniel Ames 13 Stars & Stripes , period flag.

    A signed flag allows historians to add facts in proving that textile historians, 18th Century textile information was incorrect on home spun methods and material used or not used in the 18th Century.

    Imagine how many historical flags were bebunked if all the leading flag historians textile data is incorrect? Starting from the late 1870’s-today? Misleading textile information is the number one problem many authentic 18th century existing flags are faced with today.

    • Lisa Gewecke

      Mr. Gianotti, I am in possession of what appears to be an Original 13 Star American flag, although in doing my research have found determining it’s authenticity. I inherited from my late father and have since had it matted and framed under OP3 Acrylic. Could you possibly point me in the right direction of someone who would be interested in determining it’s authenticity.

      Thank you in advance for your assistance,

      Ms. Lisa Gewecke

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