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full cadence flag ...

framing a 38-star flag

what an honor

I recently completed the framing of a 38-star American flag from 1877 for the Collinsville Historical Museum.

This flag is unique in that the red stripes and blue cadence are painted. It is believed to have been a parade flag.

Photos above show how the fabric was laid out. 

The challenge was not only in dealing with its large size but also in determining how to keep the flag in an upright position without causing any further strain or stress to the fabric. As you can see, the fabric has deteriorated and is falling apart in some areas.

Photo above: shows the flag totally unfurled and in place waiting to be stitched. The flag is approximately 44 inches wide - left to right.

I began by using oversize, acid-free foam-core as the base. I rolled out quilt batting to cover the foam-core; on top of that, I pressed 100% cotton rag fabric in a color that would look neutral behind the flag and rolled that onto the batting. Then I very carefully placed the flag on top of the cotton fabric. After smoothing it out carefully, I determined how I was going to stitch the flag to the the fabric, batting, and foam-core using cotton thread one shade darker than the red and “white” stripes, as well as the blue cadence. Then one stitch at a time, I began sewing, which took several days. I had to be careful not to stitch the painted areas because the paint wanted to fleck off. The painted areas had minds of their own in that they wanted to fleck even without touching them.

Once the flag was stitched into place, I stitched the edge of the cotton fabric and batting to the foam-core to make certain everything was snug and in place as shown in the photo to the right and the close-up below. Note how delicate the fabric is where it’s frayed between the stripes. Once the stitching was complete, I created a spacer the same thickness as the flag, fabric and batting so that once I added the matting, all would be level.

After cutting the oversized mat, attaching and fitting, this piece of history was ready for its permanent display. Because of its size and weight, I was unable to lift the completed piece back onto my worktable for photographing, so I shot it as it leaned against the cabinet on the floor. That being said, you owe it to yourself to stop by our historical museum to see this 1877 flag. I am including the story that accompanies it so that you can truly appreciate what a treasure is awaiting you there.

Enjoy the read...

The 38-Star American Flag Flown from 1877-1890

        On August 1, 1876, the Centennial Year of our country’s independence from Great Britain, Colorado became the 38th state, and the 38th star was added to the American flag. The 38-star flag was flown from 1877 to 1890. The five Presidents to serve under this flag were: Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), James A. Garfield (1881), Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885), Grover Cleveland (1885-1889), and Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893).


        This particular 38-star flag is a painted flag and was possibly a large-scale parade flag. The placement of the stars is called the Full Canton Design. This design style pays tribute to our country’s First Centennial with the size of the stars planned so they fill as much of the blue canton as possible.


        In 1889 Congress was going to add the Dakota territory as the 39th state, but convened for their break before taking this action; however, in anticipation of their action, flag manufacturers began making 39-star flags.


        When Congress reconvened, they made the decision to divide the Dakota territory into two states, North Dakota and South Dakota - November 2, 1889. In addition, Congress added both Montana and Washington - November 11, 1889, and Idaho - July 3, 1990, giving this country 43 states, and a flag with 43 stars.


        The flag with 39 stars, also referred to as “the flag that never was!”, was never an official American flag. The 39-star flags were disposed of (though some survived), and the official American flag went from having 38 stars in 1877-1889 to 43 stars in 1890.


        This 38-star flag was found in the home of Agnes Helmkamp and is believed to have belonged to Frances Wilhelm, who taught in several one-room schoolhouses in Collinsville, Highland, and Troy.


Donated by Virginia Frey

It is interesting to note that in 1976, the Bicentennial Year of our country’s independence and to celebrate and commemorate said milestone, several community-minded citizens felt that Collinsville should have a historical museum to preserve, house and showcase our community’s heritage, thus giving birth to the Collinsville Historical Museum.

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The Collinsville Historical Museum to learn more about the rich history of our community:

I would love to feature photos of things that I have framed for you. Just email the image to me along with a little story, and I will publish it in the “archives” section of the website. It really is a lot of fun to share your projects with others; and others love to see what’s been done.

My email address remains:

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