38-Star Vertical American Flag, Celebrating Colorado Statehood, Circa 1876

This is an original 38-star American flag. The flag dates to 1876, when Colorado joined the Union as the 38th state. The flag is made of cotton, with a blue canton featuring thirty-eight stenciled white stars. The stars are arranged in an unusual and spectacular star pattern. At the center of the canton is a large white star, symbolizing the addition of Colorado to the Union. Three outlier stars are stenciled above and below the central star. To the left are two vertical rows of eight stars. At right, a vertical row of nine stars is followed by a row of six stars. The flag’s design is completed with 13 vertical machine-sewn stripes, alternating in red and white. 

The 38th star was added to the American flag with the admission of Colorado to the Union on August 1, 1876. Per the Third Flag Act of 1818, stars were not officially added until the 4th of July following a state's addition to the Union. For this reason, 37 was the official star count for the American flag in 1876 and the 38 star flag became the official United States flag on July 4th, 1877.

While the flag was not officially changed to carry 38 stars until 1877, the star count was widely used on flags a year earlier in commemoration of the centennial celebration. The occasion of the nation's 100th birthday celebration was an event that sparked patriotism across the country. Following the devastation of the Civil War, the centennial celebration was a time to come together as a nation to celebrate the progression and bright future of the United States. For this reason, many flags produced in the centennial year incorporated 38 stars, for the newly admitted Colorado, in light of the growth and progression of the nation.

In the lead up to the nation’s Centennial in 1876, flag makers and individuals looked to the past for designs to produce as part of the country’s many celebrations. Since no design restrictions were placed on flagmaker’s imaginations and no strict distinctions were drawn between official and unofficial star counts, it is no surprise that, on the occasion of the Centennial, creativity in flag design was not the exception but the rule. The cantons from this period presented an array of geometric abstractions. The lively assemblage of many white stars into one great stellar design is perhaps the most beautiful visualization of the goal set forth by the original Flag Resolution of 1777, “...13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”  


Very good condition overall. Cotton throughout, retaining strong color. The  blue canton features stenciled stars. The fly has 13 red and white machine-sewn stripes. Only minor areas of discoloration throughout, due to toning and age. Light fraying and small losses at fly end. Flag size: 50" x 27". 

Flag has been archivally framed and mounted in a custom-built black and gold frame with linen wrapped acid-free mats and UV plexiglas. A custom gold-leaf descriptive plaque has been mounted to the design. Framed Dimensions: 62" H x 39" W x 2 1/2" D.

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