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

Last modified: 2013-07-06 by rick wyatt
Keywords: thirty-eight | united states | concentric | hourglass |
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[U.S. 38 star flag 1877] image by Rick Wyatt, 5 April 1998



See also:


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)
[U.S. 38 star Army garrison flag]
Army Garrison Flag
image 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)
[U.S. 38 star Army post flag]
Army Post Flag
image 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.
[U.S. 38 star Navy Ensign]
Navy Ensign
image by Joe McMillan, 9 February 2001

Concentric Circles Design

[38 star Concentric Circle Design of 1877]
image by Rick Wyatt, 16 July 2001
Oval As Depicted On Stamp
[38 star Concentric Circle Design of 1877]
image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 30 July 2001
Perfect Circles

Concentric Circle Designs (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] image 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


Full Canton Design

[Full Design 38 Star U.S. flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 13 August 2001

Another example of a tribute to our First Centennial shows an attempt to plan the size of the stars so that they fill as much of the blue canton as possible.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 13 August 2001


Hourglass Design

[Hourglass Design 38 Star U.S. flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 13 August 2001

Here, the crossing diagonal lines of stars outline the cross of St. Andrew. But, if the flag is placed upright, it will be seen that the arrangement also depicts the shape of an hourglass with two stars representing two centuries, in the process of dropping to the bottom of the glass. We have here therefore possibly the most original conception celebrating the advent of the First Centennial.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 13 August 2001