13-Star United States Naval Commissioning Pennant, Circa 1880-1890s

This is a 13-Star Naval Commissioning Pennant, circa 1880-1890. A naval commissioning pennant is flown at all times as long as a ship is in commissioned status, except when a flag officer or civilian official is embarked and flies his personal flag in its place. Given the size of this pennant, it is most likely from a launch or small Navy boat.

This American naval commissioning pennant is dark blue at the hoist, bearing thirteen white five-pointed stars. The rest of the pennant consists of single longitudinal stripe of red and white. The fly ends in a narrowed point. The flag is composed of wool bunting, with a cotton headband. The stars are zig-zag machine-stitched and the two stripes are also machine-stitched.

Beginning in the early 1890s, flags started to use zig-zag stitching. On February 23, 1892, Mr. Henry Bowman, an African American, was awarded patent #473,653, Device for Making Flags, in which he patented the use of zig-zag stitching specifically for sewing stars onto American flags. As Bowman’s patent describes, the approach was to sew the white fabric blanks to each side of the canton, using zig-zag stitching, and to then cut away the blanks and leave the stars. Although this was not the most efficient use of raw materials, the method was a significant improvement in speed versus cutting stars separately. The rough edges of the stars were more secure with the zig-zag stitching, making it the perfect sewing technique for flags on boats. 


Flag is in good condition. All stars are fully intact and the canton’s colors are exceptionally vibrant.10th star has small stain at center. Some wear and small tears in fly, as to be expected on a Naval flag. All tears have been stabilized. Flag measures 4" H x 51" W.

Pennant is artfully and archivally displayed vertically mounted and floating in a custom-built wooden shadowbox frame. Framed dimensions: 59” H x 11.5” W x 2.5” D.

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