May 17, 2022 Early Arms & Militaria
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/17/2022
This flag has an impeccable provenance, descending in the family of Stephen Decatur, whose trove of historic artifacts was divided among three branches of the family. The trove contained in total, “twenty some flags” according to entries in the Zaricor collection, which obtained seventeen flags that had passed to the Armsden branch of descendants: “Dating from the early 18th century, the flags were acquired from the male naval officers of the family by the women of the families, the wives and daughters, who then carefully preserved and conserved them, an act for which posterity is forever indebted.” This extremely rare 17-star and 17-stripe flag was part of the trove allotted to a different branch of the family, on whose behalf we are proud to offer it. Only one other flag of 17 stars and 17 stripes is known to exist that was actually made in the period of the admission of the seventeenth state in 1804. That flag, too, is connected with early U.S. naval forces, having been taken as a trophy from the U.S. privateer “Blockade” by the commander of H.M.S. Charybdis in October 1813. Ironically, it is part of the Zaricor collection, in which the majority of the other Decatur family flags resides. This example has descended from the family of iconic U.S. Navy hero Stephen Decatur, Jr., along with a large amount of other Decatur material Morphy Auctions has been honored to offer to the public in several sales. The flag is handsewn throughout and measures 69 by 88 inches with a narrow sleeve on the hoist for a rope created by folding the fabric and securing it with a simple line of stitching. The seventeen red and white stripes vary slightly in width from 4" to 4 - 1/2". The canton rests on the ninth, red stripe, measures 31 - 1/2" x 45", and is constructed of three horizontal panels of light blue silk: one upper panel measuring 21" x 45" and two lower panels each measuring 10.5 inches wide sewn end to end, the first 21 - 3/4" long and the second 23 - 1/4". The upper panel contains 11 stars: arranged 6 – 5 and the lower panels contain 6 stars, with 3 on each panel. The stars are six-pointed, irregularly cut, varying from 4.75 to 5 inches from point to point, and are sewn flat to one side with the silk cut away on the other to create stars of approximately 4". The use of seventeen stars was never official, but the 1777 flag act provided for 13 stars and stripes, and the 1795 act, taking into account the earlier admission of two more states, increased the stars to 15, and correspondingly increased the number of stripes to 15 as well, creating a clear logical progression, which this flag follows with the admission of a 17th state, Ohio, in 1804. It was not until 1820 that a third flag act divorced the number of stars from the number of stripes, setting the latter at 13. With the star count dating 1804 to 1812 and possible use for a time after, as the “Blockade” flag illustrates, this flag falls exactly in the active life of Stephen Decatur, Jr. While there is no written documentation on the origin of the flag, this has past generation to generation with family history connecting a memorial of Lieutenant James Decatur, brother of Stephen Decatur, Jr., who was mortally wounded in an August 3, 1804 U.S. attack on ships in Tripoli harbor by a Tripolitan captain during the boarding of a vessel feigning surrender. Upon receiving the news of his brother, Stephen immediately set out to avenge his brother's treacherous death. Stephen Decatur was himself nearly slain, however he and his boarding party were able to gain the upper hand, vanquish the Barbarian crew, and avenge James’ death. James was taken aboard the USS Constitution and succumbed to his injuries the following day. He was later buried at sea. CONDITION: Very good. Slight burn mark and loss to the upper corner of the fly. Short 8.5-inch seam separation midway on the bottom edge of the canton. Regardless of its specific purpose, the Decatur family provenance is impeccable, adding to the desirability of a flag that is already a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the collector or institution.
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $15,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $45,600.00
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000
Number Bids: 10
Auction closed on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
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