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Monday, December 3, 2012

Spectacular Battleship Size 48-Star American Flag

Massive 48 star US ensign laid out in front of Skipjack Nautical Wares.
It's a wonder what one might find digging around at local antiques and flea markets. And that is what we encountered this last Saturday at the Olde Towne Antiques to Flea Market here in Portsmouth, Virginia. Held the first Saturday of each month, the Olde Towne Portsmouth event is always full of interesting items, from the typical yard sale flea type finds to the most unexpected treasures. Last year, I discovered and purchased a Philadelphia windsor bowback side chair, branded with the name of the maker, John Letchworth (1759-1843). His shop was located on Third Street between Chestnut and Walnut (1784) and he actually made chairs for Thomas Jefferson and used at Monticello. More on this in a later blog.

A view above the flag. Magnificent!
This time we discovered an extremely large pile of wool bunting stuck in the corner of the vendors booth that appeared to be the colors and design of an American flag. Upon closer inspection, we knew it was more than that, it was a major find. I asked the owner what he knew about it. He responded by saying that they had just purchased it and it came out of a house accross the river in Norfolk, VA. The flag had been stored away for longer than the previous owner could remember, but recounted that it once was flown above a battleship during WWII. Unfortuately, he did not know the battleships name. This is not unusual. Other accounts of battleships decommissioned and deaccessed flags were sometimes removed in order to maintain secrecy.

I continued and asked him how large was the flag and the condition....obviously way to big to unfold and inspect in it's current location. He responded, "Well, it's about 20 feet by 30 feet or thereabouts and is definitely worn. To big for anyone to hang on their walls".
After not much consideration, Alison paid them for it and I hauled it out to our car. Damn heavy; that's a lot of flag to carry and a lot of history too!

Alison measures the  height of the flag.
Later that day, with the help of a few of our friends, we unmatted the pile of flag and stretch her out in front of our store. We reviewed the condition of our find- yes, definitely some rips and tears, typical of the damage inflicted on a ships flag due to weather and/or battle conditions. We found the flag makers tag sewn on to the heavy canvas heading. The tag stated:  "HIGH GRADE, REG. U.S. PAT. OFF., BUNTING, -ALL WOOL-, THE BEST SINCE 1847'. This was the label used on U.S. government and military flags made by Annin & Company, New York, a major producer of high quality flags and the maker of this one as well. The massive 48-Star US national ensign flag, measured  20' x 38' in size and according to the presidents standardized sizing for flags created in 1912, this is flag size #1, the largest of US ensigns produced. Annin & Co. named this size flag "ABRUS".

The sewn on tag by Annin & Co., New York.

Folding up the flag for safe storage.

A 1926 advertisement fot Annin & Co., New York.

USS Iowa commissioning ceremony. The flag is similar to the one in this blog.
This flag was a great discovery and I would rank it up there with some of our greatest we've uncovered to date. Not so much as a valuable item, monetarily wise, but such a major symbol of our nation, potentially flown during major naval battles and rising above all others as the symbol of freedom that so many have laid down their lives defending it. Semper Fi!

Here is the link on Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Galleries page on our webstore. We will also consider donating it to the right foundation or museum if the right opportunity arrives.  We have also included here a link to the Zaricor flag collection, a national treasure presentation of American ensigns, jacks, flags  & pennants.


  1. How wonderful! I love our flag and your find is awesome! Enjoy her!

  2. Good article man and I'm loving the flag even that Im not US citizen.

  3. Just sent a link to your blog to my dad. He lives in Wilmington, NC and is a bit obsessed with anything nautical so he'll love this. :)

  4. Wow looks like an amzing part of our history; GOOD WORK!

  5. Another piece of history rescued. :-)

  6. Wow those flags look so small when they're on the ships! That is huge!

  7. its a great battleship... awesome

  8. Good Article ! Thank for Your sharing


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