39-Star Centennial International Exhibition Souvenir Flag, Circa 1876

This is a patriotic Centennial Exhibition textile featuring a 39-star American flag at center, surrounded by a border of 38 other flags of the world. The hoist is printed with “INTERNATIONAL Patented Dec 28. 1875.” 

This souvenir flag was printed to be waved in parades and other celebrations in honor of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.

The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 was the first World's Fair in the United States, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Nearly 10 million visitors attended the exposition and 39 countries participated in Fair. Those 39 countries, including the United States, are represented on this textile.

An official flag with only 39 stars was never approved by Congress. Flagmakers often gambled on how many states would be admitted each year and would produce flags with the number of stars they predicted would be approved that session. These flagmakers assumed the Dakota Territory would be the only new state admitted that year and printed a flag with just one more star than the last. Unfortunately for the company, not only was the territory split into North and South Dakota, but three other states were also added to the Union and new flag design by the time Congress voted on July 4, 1890. As a result, this 39-star flag is considered “unofficial,” giving the patriotic piece an interesting and unique history.


Printed flag on cotton. Red, blue, green, brown printed color remains very vibrant, with some toning to yellow printed color and white background. Three small foxing marks in the last white stripe. Creases due to past storage. Minimal fraying to top and bottom edges. Flag Dimensions: 17 1/8” H x 24 ½” W.

This flag has been archivally framed in a custom-built black and gold wooden frame on dark archival linen. Framed Dimensions: 25 1/4” H x 32” W x 1 1/2” D. 


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