PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Freeman's
will offer a rare 13-star flag, estimated at $175,000-$250,000, in the upcoming April 17 auction of American Furniture, Folk, & Decorative Arts. This piece arrives on the heels of another flag and ensign collections that were successfully sold at Freeman's-The Grand Division of Color of the 8th Virginia Regiment, which achieved $422,500 in November 2012, and the Historic USS Constitution Colors from the Collection of H. Richard Dietrich Jr., which realized $784,500 in April 2012.
According to family lore, the 13-star flag was found in a trunk left by Michael Patrick Patton (1870-1943), a draper and decorator of patriotic flag displays. Born to John and Catherine Patton of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, he worked at the Cardington Mills, a cotton cloth factory at nearby Cobb's Creek with most of his seven siblings. Their jobs included weaving, dying, piecing and picking, but at the time of Patton's marriage to Julia Elizabeth Ruth in 1892, he was listed as a weaver. In the early part of the last century, Patton became involved in decorating buildings and large interiors such as those at Philadelphia's Frankford Arsenal.
In the early 1960's, Patton's trunk and its contents were passed on to his great-grandson, who took little interest in it at the time. However, he did recognized one of the items as an American flag. It was not until he retired did he suspect he could have a possible treasure in his possession. He then began in earnest to verify that it was, indeed, from the 18th-century. After having the flag examined and analyzed by McCrone Associates, Inc. of Westmont, Illinois, they concluded that it had all the characteristics of a flag from that time.
This flag's unusual hand-written inscription is thought to have been made by Nathaniel Ames (1761-1863), born in Killingly, Connecticut. He joined the New London County Militia at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, and as a 17-year-old, helped in the building of Fort Griswold in Groton, Connecticut. He later joined the Connecticut Continental Army and served under Washington at Morristown during the harsh winter of 1780. Ames went on to join the crew of a 16-gun brig and privateer, Marquise de Lafayette, and traveled to Holland and the West Indies. Upon the ship's return in 1783, Ames signed onto another merchant ship sailing, yet again, to the West Indies-this time under an English captain. The ship was captured and taken to Bermuda where the crew was held prisoner for three months. It is during this captivity that Ames most likely signed and dated the flag. It is also possible that he was impressed (forced to serve) onto a British ship for three more years at sea.
The flag itself is a wonderful revelation of science, history and geography. The red dye has been identified as cochineal, and the blue dye as "Prussian" blue-both in common use in England and North America by the end of the 18th-century. The inscription ink was identified as thin Oriental smoke-black ink in a gelatin binder, probably mixed with sea water-also appropriate for the late 18th-century. An analysis of the fiber and dye content of the flag's materials and ink inscription on the hoist has been completed and accompanies this lot.
Ames eventually became a farmer and Methodist minister in Oneida County, New York until the age of 75 when he then moved to a farm in Wisconsin. This flag is accompanied by photocopies of Ames's pension records from the National Archives; correspondence relating to his years of military service; a number of accounts of his life, along with photographs and transcribed interviews with Ames from December 11, 1832 and June 28, 1833, recounting his Revolutionary War service. Also included is a photocopy of "A Sketch of the Life of Nathaniel Ames as Dictated by him, the R.P. Main , Oregon , Wis," and an article from The Saturday Globe, March 5, 1898.
The 13-star flag will be sold at Freeman's in Philadelphia on April 17 with American furniture, folk and decorative arts from the colonial period through the 20th-century. Other notable militaria in this sale include a portrait miniature of dedicated military officer Walker Keith Armistead (1785-1845) of Virginia and a large French and Indian War engraved powder horn.