There are many ways to construct an American flag. And just as the configuration of stars changed and evolved as we added more states to the Union, so too did our way of adding stars to our flag, thanks to new technologies and the advancement of sewing and printing methods. Join us as we explore the many ways historical flag makers applied stars to Old Glory.
The two predominant methods to sew stars onto a flag are by hand or by sewing machine. Hand-sewn stars on flags were common prior to the Civil War. Although the first American patent for a working sewing machine was filed in 1846, many seamstresses found sewing more intricate shapes like a star easier to do by hand. But as technology improved, machine-sewn stars on flags became more common.
Printing stars onto flags is actually a bit of a misnomer. Rather, in most cases, the stars are not printed, but rather the blue canton around the stars is printed with color, and the stars themselves remain the color of the base fabric of the flag. The earliest known printed flags date to 26-star flags in 1837.
The process for clamp dyeing dates to the mid-19th century, and involves binding the fabric of the flag so that the shape of the stars is protected and does not take on dye. Close examination of clamp dyed stars show irregularities, introduced by the printing process, such as the stubby tip of the star points and or minor bleeding of the blue into the white area of the star.
Embroidered stars are made by building up individual stitches of thread to form the star. Starting in the late 19th century, machine embroidery was used to apply stars that were more regular in size and shape.
Stars that are affixed to a flag are usually made of a material that is difficult to stitch into without causing damage or undesired effects. The stars might be made of metallic foil, plastic sequins, or other materials. These stars are usually affixed with adhesives.
Mitchell became one of the most prominent American map publishers of the mid-19th century and his visual record of the early Unites States gives us an incredible lens into the rapid growth of our country during this time. This engraved and hand-colored 1858 map of the United States is a wonderful example of Westward expansion and the worldwide powerhouse that America was becoming.
Douglas Adams (1853-1920) was a London based landscape painter. He exhibited in the Royal Academy between 1880 and 1894, showed at the Society of British Artists, the Grosvenor Gallery, and the New Gallery and shared a Primrose Hill studio with other artists. Adams specialized as a landscape and wildfowl painter and often painted sporting scenes. Many of his paintings celebrated the field sports of hunting, shooting, and fishing, set against stunning Highland landscapes and painted in the Victorian tradition.