For Americans the USS Constitution, the lone survivor of the ships constructed based on the initial authorization by Congress in 1794, is today more familiarly known by her nickname, Old Ironsides, a name earned in her battle with the English 38-gun frigate Guerriere during the War of 1812. In the etiquette of naval warfare the British interlopers raised 3 ensigns [flags] to signal their desire to fight. The Constitution responded with 4 and the battle was joined. In capturing her counterpart the Constitution also captured the admiration of an adoring American public that has periodically since raised hue and cry when hardhearted bureaucrats sought to send her to the scrapyard. As a consequence she is the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. Officially retired from service as a 1st rate vessel in 1855, she then became a training vessel. In 1907 she was designated a museum ship and today is berthed at Pier 1 of the former Charlestown Navy Yard, at one end of Boston’s Freedom Trail.
The final lot, lot 13, a thirteen star American Naval Color, is the only lot that didn’t sell and the only one not associated with Old Ironsides. It’s a 6’ 1” x 10’ 10” outlier with support of scientific analysis confirming age and evidence of long-ago seawater and gunpowder but without a provenance or history. It is possibly the oldest flag in this sale although its date of sewing and years of use cannot be precisely determined. According To Col. J. Craig Nannos who was asked by Freeman’s to evaluate the collection, its date of construction is difficult to precisely confirm. Nevertheless he’s confident “It’s authentic.”
Here is how it was described in the sale:
Rare 13- star American Naval Color
late 18th/ early 19th century
The canton comprised of two lengths of blue wool bunting with selvage edge at top and bottom, appliqued with thirteen unmercerized cotton stars arranged in a 4-5-4 configuration, eight red and white wool bunting stripes, all hand -sewn with cotton 3 Z-spun single plied thread, canvas hoist.
H 6'1" x W 10' 10"