Friday, October 22, 2010

Dumb Luck, Rare Find

Over the years, I've developed an eye for the unusual by looking at quilts on eBay. I see thousands of quilts each week, and have realized that certain quilts are common - Double Wedding Ring, Grandmother's Flower Garden, etc. The quilts I haven't seen are the ones that pique my interest.

When I saw this quilt, listed as a Civil War commemorative quilt, I thought, "That's different." So I bid on it and won it. The American flag caught my attention because it was upside down and backwards, but I didn't put much more thought into it until it arrived. When I got it out of the box, it occurred to me that I might be able to get an idea of the date by counting the stars in the American flag. There were 40. 


A google search led to me discover that South Dakota became the 40th state on November 2, 1889, and the 41st state was Montana, November 8, 1889. 


So I googled "40 Star American flag" and it led me to the web site of flag collector Anthony Iasso, On the site, the 40 star flag was classified as extremely rare. I sent an email to Anthony, asking if he could take a look at a picture of the flag and let me know what he thought. I wasn't sure if the flag had been cut down and was missing some stars, because it appears the red stripes on top and bottom were cut down because they are narrower than the other stripes. I thought maybe the same was true for the side edge, and maybe it was really a 46 star flag, which is much more common than the 40 star flag.

Anthony e-mailed me today with more information, and good news - he believes it is really a 40 star flag! According to him, 40 star flags were produced in a very limited number. The U.S. jumped from 38 states to 40 in one day when North and South Dakota were both introduced into the union at the same time. Many people thought that Dakota would be brought in as one state, since the Dakota Territory was one territory. In anticipation of that, many 39 star flags were produced. Just six days later, Montana was brought in as the 41st state. Three days later, Washington State was added, and that threw things off when it came to the number of stars on the flag.

"I know of about 10-20 of these that have surfaced over the years," said Anthony, "all in the same style, and all printed on what we consider the 'reverse' of the flag today." He also said the positioning of the stars in rows of 8-7-8-8-7-8 is correct for an authentic flag. "They are 'dancing' or rotated on their axis which is typical of the style," he said.

In a follow-up e-mail, I asked how much a flag like that would be worth, and although he doesn't officially do appraisals, he said he would place it somewhere in the $400 to $700 range. I purchased the quilt for just under $485, and had wondered if I got a good deal. It seems I did.


  1. That is a fun sampler quilt! How cool to learn that it may be an original 40 star flag too!!

  2. I'm sure there's more to be discovered, too. Some of the blocks are very unusual. I love samplers!

  3. Great detective work. Doesn't the back story add to the quilt.

  4. Good for you! I love it when those gut feelings pay off. So one might go on to presume the quilt may have been made by a proud Dakotan?

  5. The quilt came from an eBay seller in Delaware, who got it from an elderly lady in Maryland. According to the seller, the former owner's family lived in Gettysburg for many generations, so I think it's a Pennsylvania quilt. Makes sense to me. I don't know much about the population in South Dakota in the 1880's, but the quilt seems maybe a bit too refined for that region of the wild west at that time. I kinda feel the same way about the manufactured flag. Seems like something that would've been produced in an established, well-populated area like Philadelphia.

  6. It does have a MidAtlantic feel to it...great find!