42-Star Handsewn American Flag Commemorating Washington Statehood, Circa 1890

Presented is a hand-sewn 42-star cotton American flag. The flag celebrates Washington statehood and dates to circa 1890.  The 42 stars are all hand-cut and hand-sewn in a row arrangement. 

The faded blue canton has 6 rows of 7 stars. As the stars were cut and sewn by hand, there is a slight variation on both star size and the spacing between stars. The flag design is completed with 13 alternating red and white stripes, to represent the 13 original colonies.

The 42-star flag is interesting from a historical perspective, both because 42 was never an official star count. 42-star flags were only produced for 8 months, from November 1889 to July 4, 1890. The flag represents the addition of the Dakotas, Montana and Washington, between November 2 and November 11, 1889. The 42nd state was officially Washington, but the four states gained their statehood only nine days apart, and flag makers added four stars, accordingly, to the previously official 38-star flag.

After 1818, star counts became official on the 4th of July each year. A new star was therefore officially added on Independence Day for every state that had been added over the preceding "flag year". Flag makers, however, did not wait for Independence Day and "official" star counts. Flag making was a competitive industry, and no one wanted to be making 38 star flags when their competitors were making 42 star flags. On many occasions, particularly in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, flag-makers would speculate the number of states that were going to be added and add the stars before they were official. It was for this precise reason that 42 was never an official star count. Idaho received statehood on July 3, 1890, taking the star count to 43 just one day before 42 would have become the official number. This fact makes 42 star flags an interesting part of our heritage and a classic display of American capitalism.


Good condition, cotton flag. Colors are faded. Scattered stains, scattered small holes, and a few small tears along fly end. Unframed dimensions: 44" H x 68" W.

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