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38 Star Flag - (1877-1890) (U.S.)

Last modified: 2002-11-16 by rick wyatt
Keywords: thirty-eight | united states |
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[US 38 star flag 1877] by Rick Wyatt, 5 April 1998

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Description of the flag

In 1877, one star was added, representing Colorado, bringing the total number of stars to 38. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.
Rick Wyatt, 5 April 1998

Variations in Proportions/Designs

I just ran across a 1986 reprint of a book issued by the U.S. Army Quartermaster General called Specifications for Clothing, Camp and Garrison Equipage, and Clothing and Equipage Materials (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Depot of the Quartermaster's Department, 1889). It includes a number of flag specifications issued between 1876 and 1889. Taken in combination with the contemporary U.S. Navy Tables of Equipment and Flags of Maritime Nations (1882), it is interesting to note the variation in official proportions and designs of the S&S at the time. Looking at the flags side by side also lets one see why President Taft felt the need to standardize the design by executive order in 1912.
Joe McMillan, 9 February 2001

The Army garrison flag was 20 x 36 feet, with the canton (union) extending 1/3 of the fly. The stars, measuring 10 inches across, are shown in five rows of 7-8-8-8-7, with the stars all lined up vertically (not staggered as in the modern flag), the extra stars in the rows of eight being in the hoist. (Specification dated May 31, 1876)
[US 38 star Army garrison flag]
Army Garrison Flag
by Joe McMillan, 9 February 2001
The Army post flag was 10x20 feet, also with the union extending 1/3 of the fly. The six-inch stars on this flag are shown as 8-7-8-7-8, lined up vertically, with the extra stars in the rows of eight in the fly. (Specification dated May 31, 1876)

There was also an Army storm flag, 4 feet 2 inches by 8 feet, with the union extending 1/3 of the fly, with the stars as in the post flag but the eighth star in the longer rows in the hoist. (Specification dated December 31, 1877)
[US 38 star Army post flag]
Army Post Flag
by Joe McMillan, 9 February 2001
The Navy version came in a variety of sizes depending on the size of the ship. All had a ratio of about 100:192 or 100:193. Typical was 13x25 feet. The union extended over 40% of the fly. The 1882 Flags of Maritime Nations shows the stars in staggered rows of 8-7-8-7-8, looking very much like the modern arrangement.
[US 38 star Navy Ensign]
Navy Ensign
by Joe McMillan, 9 February 2001

Concentric Circles Design

[38 star Concentric Circle Design of 1877] by Rick Wyatt, 16 July 2001

Concentric Circle Design (1877) - As depicted in the postage stamp, 13 white/red stripes, blue canton with one larger white 5-pointed star in center, 13 white 5-pointed stars in oval around central star, 20 white 5-pointed stars in oval around that and one white 5-pointed star in each corner.
Dave Martucci, 17 October 1999

Alternate Design

[38 star flag] by Devereaux Cannon, 11 February 2001

This image is of an original 38 star flag, thought to be a merchant ensign dating from between 1877 and 1880, in my collection. It is similar to the 1882 navy ensign, but with a shorter length to width ratio, and the 7 stars on rows 2 and 4 are space so as to take up the same space as the 8 stars on rows 1, 3, and 5.
Devereaux Cannon, 11 February 2001

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