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220 S. Wabash Ave. Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 431-9588
Civil War-Era U.S Silk Flag

One of our long-time clients is a history buff, particularly around the War Between The States. He has a nice collection of artifacts from that period. We framed a Civil War saber for him from that era, which appears in the Historical Artifacts section of the Framescape Gallery.

He acquired an all-silk U.S Battle Flag from 1864, though it never saw battle but did fly over the state capital of Nevada. It was in great condition when he bought it from a dealer who specializes in antique flags. We called the flag dealer for guidance on framing it and he told us that it should be famed with the plexiglass right on top of it with no air space in between. Being skeptical of this approach, our shop manager, Dana, contacted Mr. Hugh Phibbs one of the head conservators at the National Gallery in Washington, DC, regarding the best way to frame it. Hugh has been an instructor at the Professional Picture Framers Association seminars for many years (we have all taken his classes) and was only too happy to help us with this antiquarian flag.

He told us the same thing:  DO NOT try to sew it down, as the silk is very old and brittle by now and the threads will break and unravel if you try to force a needle and thread through it. Instead, we have it sandwiched between U/V filtering plexiglass (called OP3) that is way oversize (72 x 78), a layer of triple-washed unbleached muslin with polyester batting under that, all sitting on a layer of Coroplast corrugated plastic to support it.  The Coroplast has been hot-glued to a wooden strainer (no nails, screws or staples to rust) and all the other layers sit on top of that. The size of the frame was dictated by the availability of the OP3 at the time. When we first framed it, as shown in the photo, the amount of clear space all around was not even. We have, since then, found OP3 available in size 80" x 96", so we are planning to re-frame the flag  as 80" square.
Note that the flag, originally, ran right up to the edge of the frame's lip, with some pull away on the right side.

You can see the wooden strainer attached to the aluminum extender frame. Also, you can see the "Z" bar cleat attached to the top member of the wooden strainer. It is from this that the flag frame is hung. Also visible is the white Coroplast platform hot glued to the front of the wooden strainer.

The outer frame is a 3" wide Larson-Juhl 538120 "Dresden" wooden frame, which has a dark brown lacquer finish over a slightly textured surface with an antique silver leafed inner lip, To create extra depth need to accommodate all the layers, Dana built a Nielsen 117-E542 "Wrought Iron" finished aluminum frame as an extender, turned on its edge and screwed to the back of the Larson-Juhl frame. The finish coordinated nicely with the main outer frame. All the contents were held in place by means of a wooden strainer attached to the metal extender frame. An aluminum "Z bar or French Cleat was used for the hanging hardware.

Frame designed and fully executed by Dana L. Fisher MCPF
Photos by Brian D. Flax, CPF
Images shown by kind permission of J. Rotunno