May 13, 2019

Forty Historic 13-Star Flags to be Displayed Together for the First Time Beginning Flag Day, June 14 – July 21

The Flags Feature Varying Configurations of 13 Stars, Representing the Original Colonies

This Flag Day, 40 rare, historic 13-star flags will go on display at the Museum of the American Revolution, marking the first time that this collection has been displayed together. Most of the flags have never been exhibited before. The exhibit, “A New Constellation: A Collection of Historic 13-Star Flags,” will be on view from Flag Day, Friday, June 14 through Sunday, July 21, 2019 (exhibit was orginially scheduled to close July 14 but has been extended due to the abundance of interest). 

13-star flag, found in Gloucester, Mass., with a seemingly random star configuration, possibly arranged to crudely form the letters "U" and "S," ca 1830-1850's.
13-star flag, found in Gloucester, Mass., with a seemingly random star configuration, possibly arranged to crudely form the letters "U" and "S," ca 1830-1850's.

Because there was no official star pattern for the American national flag until 1912, the design was left up to the artistic liberties of the maker. The flags in this exhibit feature 32 different arrangements of 13 stars, representing the 13 colonies that declared independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. The 13-star flag became the official flag of the new nation on June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act, from which the name of this exhibit is derived.

“I am thrilled that these treasures will be seen by visitors from around the world at the Museum of the American Revolution this summer,” said Jeff Bridgman, a leading dealer in antique American flags and political textiles, who is loaning the flags to the Museum. “I truly believe that there is no substitute for the experience of standing in the presence of these remarkable pieces of American history. As far as I know, no one has ever done an exhibit of this kind with just 13-star examples. Their impressive scale and texture are extraordinary, and it will be simply incredible to view them all together in one room.”

13 hand-sewn, single appliques stars in a broad arch above a hand-sewn federal eagle, probably made by flagmaker Sarah McFadden.
13 hand-sewn, single appliques stars in a broad arch above a hand-sewn federal eagle, probably made by flagmaker Sarah McFadden.

Among the highlights, said Bridgman, is one of the earliest known 13-star flags in America, which arranges the 13 stars to form a large single star. Also displayed will be a large flag (5ft. 9in. by 12ft. 4in.) ca. 1830s-1850s, found in Gloucester, Mass., which features 13 stars in a configuration possibly arranged to crudely form the letters “U” and “S.” The exhibit also features three flags that include eagles as well as stars, one of which was made by venerable flag-maker Sarah McFadden, who is sometimes dubbed “the Betsy Ross of New York.”

The exhibit will be on view in the Museum’s first-floor Patriots Gallery from June 14 – July 21, 2019 and will be included with regular Museum admission. Tickets to the Museum can be purchased by calling 215.253.6731 or at www.amrevmuseum.org. In an adjacent activity space in Patriots Gallery, visitors of all ages can try on Revolutionary-inspired clothing, handle replica objects, and participate in activities like designing their own flag and other crafts.

During Flag Day Weekend, Friday, June 14 – Sunday, June 16, guests can add a stitch to a reproduction of a Revolutionary flag and try cutting a six-pointed star like the ones on Washington’s Standard. They also can participate in a flag-themed scavenger hunt in the Museum’s galleries.

Throughout the run of the exhibit, each visitor to the Museum will receive a miniature version of the Commander-in-Chief’s Standard, the flag that marked George Washington’s presence on the battlefield, to take home. The Standard, which is in the Museum’s collection, is believed to be the earliest surviving 13-star American flag.

In the Museum’s core exhibition, visitors can see two rare Revolutionary-era flags that are on display. The Monmouth Flag descended in a Pennsylvania family and is one of the oldest surviving flags from the American Revolution, dating to 1775-6. The Forster Flag may be one of the earliest American flags to have been altered after the Declaration of Independence; it is clear that the British Union was removed from it and the white fabric has been reworked to create stripes.   

About Jeff Bridgman
Jeff Bridgman is the owner of Jeff R. Bridgman Antiques, Inc. He opened his business 28 years ago and has since participated in more than 1,400 antique shows. Bridgman also operates a full-time textile conservation business where he has preserved and framed thousands of flags and related textiles. Today, Bridgman is widely considered to be the foremost expert in the field of antique American flags and the preeminent dealer of flags and American political textiles. He has lectured on antique American flags for many years, has curated museum exhibits, and has performed appraisals for leading museums, insurance companies, and major collectors. Bridgman is a member of the American Antiques Dealers Association and the Antiques Council.  He serves on the board of directors of the Stars & Stripes Foundation.

About Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum of the American Revolution explores the dramatic, surprising story of the American Revolution through its unmatched collection of Revolutionary-era weapons, personal items, documents, and works of art. Immersive galleries, powerful theater experiences, and digital touchscreens bring to life the diverse array of people who created a new nation against incredible odds. Visitors gain a deeper appreciation for how this nation came to be and feel inspired to consider their role in the ongoing promise of the American Revolution. Located just steps away from Independence Hall, the Museum serves as a portal to the region’s many Revolutionary sites, sparking interest, providing context, and encouraging exploration. The Museum, which opened on April 19, 2017, is a private, non-profit, and non-partisan organization. For more information, visit www.AmRevMuseum.org or call 877.740.1776.