THE EVOLUTION OF OLD GLORY: THE 28-STAR FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Tom Carrier, our resident vexillologist, has worked tirelessly on the history behind the creation of each version of the American flag as our country grew and states were added. We are thrilled to share his discoveries over the next few weeks. The design of the flag has been officially modified 26 times since 1777. This week we bring you the story behind the 28-Star Flag of the United States. Enjoy!
28-star flag, 1846-1847. Photo credit: rareflags.com
First, it was Spain, then France, then Mexico, and by 1836, it was its own Republic until it joined the Confederate States of America in 1861. Finally, it became the 28th state of the Union in 1845. This is the State of Texas where six different flags have flown since its first visit by Spanish explorers in 1519.
Only one of several independent republics to become states after Vermont (New Connecticut), Hawaii and California, and Florida (East and West Florida), Texas is the state that featured the last battle of the Civil War. The Battle of Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas, in May 1865, came just after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, on April 9th.
On December 29, 1845, Texas came into the Union as the 28th state with a star added to the flag of the United States the following July 4, 1846. The Flag Act of 1818 specifies that a new star is added the following Independence Day after the admission of any new state. The Flag Act does not specify the arrangement of the stars or even the stripes, except they be 13 alternate red and white.
The 28-star national flag would be superseded by the 29-star flag the following July 4, 1847, lasting only one year.
Because the 28-star flag only lasted officially one year, not many examples exist. Of the two found, one was in the Zaricor collection for the 4th Louisiana Militia in the Grand Luminary star pattern: 27 gold, five-pointed stars arranged in a star pattern with the 28th gold, 5 pointed star in the center (or at least it’s the usual pattern–the image isn’t clear). The Grand Luminary star pattern appears to be upside down with the entire star pattern pointing downward. This isn’t unusual for this period. The Grand Luminary star pattern will be popular in many similar designs throughout the rest of the 19th century.
The Grand Luminary star pattern for the 28-star flag. Photo credit: flagcollection.com
The second is in the rare flag collection of Anthony Iasso that shows a traditional 7 white, five-pointed stars in four rows of seven hand sewn for the use of an official government naval vessel. This flag, though, is considered to be used for a maritime commercial vessel, not a government naval vessel. Still, rarely has a Grand Luminary star pattern, or any other decorative star pattern, been used aboard an official government naval vessel.
What Experts Look For
Size: Grand Luminary Flag is 46.5” width (hoist) x 80” length (fly) (overly large militia example); the maritime flag’s dimensions are not mentioned.
Star Pattern: 1.5”, 27 white stars in a Grand Luminary star pattern with a 28th star in the center (which is usual, but the image isn’t clear); painted in gold on wool bunting on only the obverse side, not the reverse; the maritime flag shows 28, five-pointed white cotton stars, hand sewn on both sides
Stripes: Wool: hand stitched cotton, linen thread
Fabric: For the Grand Luminary militia flag: silk; for the maritime flag: single-ply worsted wool bunting was still the most predominant during this period, but silk, cotton, and muslin were being produced as well.
Sewing Thread: Not clear on either
Stitching: Hand sewn throughout on both
Heading: Grand Luminary flag has no heading; the maritime flag is a plain weave, coarse linen.
Grommets: Grand Luminary, none; maritime flag has three brass grommets that were added after 1854.
Grand Luminary flag, none; militia flag, “S.T. Thuralay Loaned by T.P.TUITE” and, in other period ink written at a different time, “508 W. 145ST Manhattan.”
Tom Carrier is a General Worthologist with a specialty in Americana, political memorabilia and he has been the resident WorthPoint vexillologist (flags, seals and heraldry) since 2007. Tom is also a frequent contributor of articles to WorthPoint.
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