13 HAND-SEWN STARS IN A 3-2-3-2-3 CONFIGURATION OF LINEAL ROWS, ON A LARGE SCALE ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH A STENCILED SIGNATURE ALONG THE HOIST THAT READS "GEO L. WRIGHT. BOYLSTON. MA.", PROBABLY MADE FOR THE 100-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE IN 1876, OR PERHAPS FOR THE CENTENNIAL OF THE FOUNDING OF THE TOWN IN 1886:
13 star flag, made during sometime between the late 1860's and the 1880's, marked along the hoist with a black stencil that reads "Geo L. Wright. Boylston. MA." George Lawson Wright (b. 1856, d. 1946) wore many hats in the town of Boylston, Massachusetts [west of Boston; 7 miles north of Worcester]. Locals said that while he never married, he was instead married to the town. He served as a justice of the peace for 60 years, in addition to serving as a selectman, a member of the school committee, as the town librarian, and, among various other roles, as the town's first historian. Following Wright's death, many of his papers were published in a text by William O. Dupuis, a copy of which accompanies this flag. Also accompanying it is another book written to record the events surrounding the town's 1886 centennial, during which Wright served as a member of the committee on exercises and in the role of "toastmaster" at the gala dinner.
Wright was a collector of historical objects. According to Dupuis, most of his collection was destroyed at his death, but some was saved and donated to the town historical society. For some reason this 13 star flag did not follow either one of those paths. Large in scale and with hand-sewn stars in a 3-2-3-2-3 pattern, the flag bears much similarity to those flown by the U.S. Navy on small boats in the period between the end of the Civil War and the 1880's, but at 4.33 x 8.75 feet, the measurements do not conform with any of the official U.S. Navy sizes during that time frame. And while Navy specs probably didn't always conform to actual flags, it also seems less likely that Wright would stencil his name on a military flag, when he was so closely tied to so many civic functions in the town of Boylston during the period in which the flag was made.
Because Wright was so involved with the Boylston centennial in 1886, it is very possible that he was presented with the flag due to his roles in the accompanying events. As a long-time justice of the peace and the eventual historian, he may have been gifted the flag for some other reason. Or he may have acquired the flag on his own in order that he may lend it to the town for use at important events, such as the 1876 centennial of American independence from Great Britain, or for the annual observance of Independence Day, when such a flag may have flown from the town hall or on a tall pole in a park, or have been hung vertically from a building or a rope suspended over a street. 13 was the official count of stars on the first American flag, representing the original 13 colonies, and it was common and appropriate to fly a 13 star flag at either of these events. According to the flag acts passed by Congress throughout history, any American national flag that has previously been official, remains so today. For this reason, any 13 star flag that otherwise meets the rudimentary guidelines of the original flag act, was and still is acceptable as an official flag of the United States.
The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn and double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). The stripes and canton are made of wool bunting that has been joined with treadle stitching. The canton is pieced from two lengths of blue wool with treadle stitching and there is a twill cotton binding along the hoist, with a brass grommet at the top and bottom, plus 7 additional hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommets in between. This is an unusually large number of grommets for a flag of any size and it probably reflects the additional care Wright took in its preservation. He would have had these added or may have even done so himself, evidently after he stenciled his name. It was very common to mark one's name on a flag during the 19th and early 20th centuries to indicate ownership and, aside from the additional hand-sewn grommets, the rest of the flag's construction is consistent with the period between 1866 and the 1880's.
The stars are arranged are arranged in staggered lineal rows in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, which is the most common configuration found in 19th century flags with 13 stars. In most cases the 3-2-3-2-3 design can also be viewed as a diamond of stars, with a star in each corner and a star in the very center. It is of interest to note that the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern can also be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some feel could have been the design of the very first American flag and may identify a link between this star configuration and the British Union Jack. The pattern is often attributed--albeit erroneously in my opinion--to New Jersey Senator Francis Hopkinson, a member of the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, who is credited with having played the most significant role in the original design of the American national flag. Hopkinson's original drawings for the design of the flag have not survived, however, and his other depictions of 13 star arrangements for other devices are inconsistent.
Further Information Concerning the Life of George Wright in Boylston:
"Mr. Wright must be regarded as the major historian of Boylston. His entire adult life was devoted to researching the town's past, and what remains of his prolific writings provide us with the basis for all ongoing historical research in Boylston.
He was born in Concord, MA, on December 31, 1856, the son of Joseph M. and Ashah Barrows Wright. The family moved to Boylston around 1863 and settled on Central Street.
Mr. Wright was instructed in the local schools and was a surveyor by profession. He was in addition, self-taught in the fields of law [especially state law], history, geology, art, and calligraphy. He occupied just about every public office in this community and , although he never married, we might justifiably say that he was wedded to Boylston. He holds a record for membership on the School Committee--30 years--serving from 1884 to 1912, and again from 1921 to 1929, with most of that time as Chairman. He was a Selectman from 1904-06,07-12,17-18; Town Clerk, 1893-1935 [another record]; Moderator of Town Meetings, 1884-86; Justice of the Peace for 60 years; Librarian for four years; Treasurer of the Library, 4 years; Library Moderator; Representative to the General court; Official Town Historian, 1936-1943; charter member of the Dramatic Club, 1901; member of the Village Improvement Society, 1901; Secretary of the Boylston Farmers and Mechanics Association, 1886; chairman of the Town Republican Committee; Grange; and much, much more!
Mr. Wright researched and wrote on a myriad of subjects including genealogy [especially the families of Boylston], local events, state history, religious history, etc.
He was often called upon to deliver lectures, patriotic addresses, and inspirational messages of all types. Many of his articles on history appeared in local newspapers. He was an amateur artist, specializing in calligraphy and pen and ink sketches. He also engaged in the writing of poetry and short essays. He drew up legal documents for his neighbors and was considered an expert in state law. He was the designer of the town seal which was used until recently when a more appropriate theme was adopted.
Unfortunately, much of his writings and the many historical memorabilia he had collected were destroyed at his death. Thankfully, some were salvaged by historic-minded citizens and they now rest in the Historical Society Museum. Mr. Wright died on April 15, 1943 - truly deserving of the title, "MR. BOYLSTON."
[Source: Dupuis, William O., "Lives Thus Spent; Boylston Biographies" (1981, Boylston Historical Society)]
Condition: There is moderate mothing throughout, accompanied by moderate tears and fabric loss from obvious use along the fly end. There is modest foxing and staining throughout, accompanied by minor bleeding. There is moderate soiling and breakdown at the top of the hoist end in the canton, where it meets the hoist binding. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Mounting: Conservation mounting and framing is included in one of our best moldings and with U.V. protective glazing. We have our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples; more than anyone worldwide.
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 65" x 118" Flag Size (H x L): 52" x 105"
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