THE LAST CIVIL WAR STATEHOOD FLAG: 1863 35-STAR AMERICAN FLAG COMMEMORATING WEST VIRGINIA STATEHOOD, FLOWN TO MOURN THE DEATHS OF LINCOLN, GARFIELD, AND MCKINLEY
(WEST VIRGINIA). Thirty-five star printed U.S. flag. No place: 1863. Printed wool flag measuring 37 1/2 by 26 inches, with five-point stars arrayed in a seven-star, five-row, straight-row pattern; top and bottom stripes red, blue canton extends to the seventh stripe and rests on the eighth [white] stripe. Floated and framed, entire piece measures 47 by 37 inches.
35-star printed American flag commemorating West Virginia statehood, the last official flag during the Civil War, with provenance indicating it was flown to mourn the deaths of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley.
"West Virginia became the second state, following Maine, to break away from an existing state, precipitated by the refusal of most of its counties to be party to Virginia's secession. In 1861, West Virginia found Virginia's secession illegal and formed a new state government in Wheeling, even electing two senators to Congress… President Lincoln approved West Virginia's Enabling Act at the end of 1862, with the caveat that abolition be written into the state's constitution. And on June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state" (Keim & Keim, 124). The 35-star flag was officially replaced two years later, after Nevada became the 36th state in 1864 (Nevada's flag did not become official until July 4, 1865). Both Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson served under the 35-star flag. The arrangement of the stars in straight rows, as with this flag, became popular during the Civil War: "the collective visual effect… is, therefore, one of hypnotic rhythm" (Mastai & Mastai, 123). Included with the flag is a note of provenance handwritten by Minerva Lester Power of San Francisco, dated February 12, 1952, and reading: "This flag was first flown when Lincoln was nominated for the Presidency, in front of the Z.P. Davis on Spring St., Nevada City [California]. The house, the oldest in Nevada City, having been built in 1853 by Z.P. Davis, the pioneer gunsmith who crossed the plains in a covered wagon, arriving in Nevada City, Oct. 17 – 1850, with wife and child, Clara Adelaide Davis (later Mrs. A.W. Lester), the first white child to enter California from a covered wagon. This fact has been definitely established March 1926, through the efforts of the N.S.G.W. [Native Sons of the Golden West] and the Marysville Democrat. When Lincoln fell the victim of an assassin in 1865, it was draped and hung out in the same place, where it had hung before to do him honor. It was not again unfurled until President Garfield met the same fate as Lincoln in 1881. When President McKinley passed away the old flag was for the third time put on the same mast being again draped in deep mourning." The nomination of Lincoln that is referred to in the note is the June 1864 nomination for his second term in office. An 1867 directory for Nevada Township lists gunsmith Z.P. Davis as residing on Spring Street, with business premises on Broad Street (Bean's History and Directory of Nevada County, California, 140); also included is a newspaper clipping detailing the history of the flag and hand-dated 1897.
The flag shows considerable wear from being flown. The blue canton has faded to buff and has been repaired with two cotton patches, each measuring approximately two by seven inches, as well as being darned with white cotton thread. An additional five inches of darning occur on the fly end of the second (white) stripe. Only one brass grommet, typical of Civil War flags (see Keim & Keim, 93), remains at the top of the hoist. A wonderful Civil War flag with exceptional provenance.