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U.S. Flags With Unofficial Number Of Stars

Last modified: 2015-01-10 by rick wyatt
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There never was an "official" 39 star U.S. flag. However, flag manufacturers betting on early sales misjudged in 1889 by believing the two Dakotas would be admitted as one state and the others would be delayed until after the 4th of July. Both Dakotas, Montana and Washington were made into states in November, 1889 and Idaho was admitted July 3, 1890! So any 39 star flags in existence were probably made in the fall of 1889 (see below).

At any rate, as collectors know, there are a few 39 star flags around and they are real collectors items. I have been searching for one for years! Also there are unofficial 42 star flags in existence, made before July 3rd 1890, betting Congress would wait until after the 4th to admit Idaho.

There is a photograph (of a photograph) of a 39 star flag in the July, 1959 National Geographic, pg 119. The caption reads,

"This 39-star Banner Legally Never Existed. The maker of this 1889 flag gambled on the possibility of Dakota Territory entering the Union without companions. He lost: Congress divided the Territory and admitted Montana, Washington, and Idaho as well. Senator Frank Case of South Dakota views a picture of the flag and its owner, Harold L. Rutland, a Union, New Jersey, teacher (page 117)."
The article, "New Stars for Old Glory," on page 117 gives a more complete version of the story mentioned in the caption.The flag with the thirteen stars and stripes represented the thirteen original colonies.
Dave Martucci, 12 November 1996