The Museum of the American Revolution is used to displaying history, but this weekend, they are making it. MOAR will be home to the first-ever large-scale 13-star flag display in our country’s history. Every flag in the collection is authentic, unique and one-of-a-kind; in fact, some have never even been displayed before.
The exhibit, “A New Constellation: A Collection of Historic 13-Star Flags,” will be on view from Flag Day, Friday, June 14, through Sunday, July 21, 2019. Originally, the exhibit was supposed to call MOAR home until the 14th, but already the buzz this incredible exhibit has created is unprecedented.
According to the release, because there was no official star pattern for the American national flag until 1912, the design was left up to the artistic liberties of the maker. The flags in this exhibit feature 32 different arrangements of 13 stars, representing the 13 colonies that declared independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.
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Jeff Bridgman, a leading dealer in antique American flags and political textiles, is loaning the awe-inspiring antiques to MOAR. Bridgman has an astronomical amount of flags in his collection — about 2,500, to be exact — including the 750 13-star editions. Bridgman is loaning 40 of his historic gems to MOAR for the exciting exhibition.
Bridgman has been a collector since he was a kid; however, his interests graduated from little knickknacks to historical artifacts fairly quickly. “Most of my focus is 19th century,” says Bridgman. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years now and I started doing flags at a serious level about 20 years ago.”
So where did Bridgman acquire such a unique collection from? “All sources under the sun,” says Bridgman. “Private individuals, pickers, other dealers, collectors, estate attorneys, sometimes little historical societies even. Also, a ton of people contact me.”
The flags vary in size, color and design along with proportions. Each American flag up until the early 20th century is vastly different. But that’s something that interests Bridgman along with many other Americans. “There’s a flag where the stars are sort of arranged to spell the letter ‘U’ and ‘S.’ I think that’s a particularly interesting one,” says Bridgman. Another highlight includes a flag that has a design arranging the 13 stars to form a large single star. Other flags even have sales ads on them, which was the norm back in the 19th century.
This exhibit is truly unique, and Bridgman is happy to be a part of educating Philadelphians as well as creating history — something he and MOAR are already so taken with. “This is the first large-scale exhibit of 13-star flags in American history. It’s never been done,” says Bridgman. “You’ll learn something about 13-star American flags from the beginning in the 18th century through the first part of the 20th century.”
As a bonus to this already incredible temporary installation, guests who head to MOAR this weekend (June 14-16) can add a stitch to a reproduction of a Revolutionary flag and try cutting a six-pointed star like the ones on Washington’s Standard. Guests can also participate in a flag-themed scavenger hunt in the museum’s galleries.
Anyone who visits the exhibit during and after this weekend will also receive a miniature version of the commander in chief’s Standard, the flag that marked George Washington’s presence on the battlefield, to take home. The flag these gifts are modeled after is believed to be the earliest surviving 13-star American flag, and it is on display in the exhibit as well.
According to the release, tickets to the museum can be purchased by calling 215-253-6731 or at amrevmuseum.org.
The Museum of the American Revolution is located at 101 S. 3rd St.