The American flag has been around for centuries. Today, you can purchase it from a flag manufacturer or go to a retail outlet or specialty store. These places are capable of providing you with high quality flags. In the past, it was not so easy.
Early Flag Manufacturers
In colonial times and in certain less settled areas, a flag manufacturer was not always readily available. If you wanted a flag, you would need to request one from someone who sewed for a living. In Philadelphia, during the War of Independence, flag makers as well as upholsterers were responsible for designing and manufacturing flags.
By the 1840s, you could obtain printed flags. This coincided with political campaigns that used the flag as a tool during elections. Names, slogans and pictures of political candidates began to appear on the flags. This was not prohibited until the passage of legislation in the early 1900s.
By the turn of the 1860s, several flag manufacturers had appeared on the scene. Whatever their location, they began to expand during the Civil War period. This was a time when flags were in high demand. People showed their patriotism by purchasing and flying their choice of colors. It was easy to identify who supported the North and those who stood behind the south simply by seeing what flag hung outside their home or was draped inside the door.
The same enthusiasm and growth in the industry has always coincided with an increase in patriotic fervor. This is true prior and during World War I, World War II, the Invasion of Kuwait and 9/11. The major difference is the ability to purchase from an online flag manufacturer.
The ability for a flag manufacturer to produce flags is related to the type of flag they wish to manufacture. In essence, there are two basic types of flags: sewn and parade. Until the late 19th century, sewn flags dominated the market. In the 19th century, these were large flags, greater than 7 feet long. Although a sewing machine could put the several pieces together, they were mainly sewn by hand.
Hand work was the only way you could obtain a flag before the invention of first American sewing machine in 1833/34. This early device was operated by a crank. In Massachusetts, Elias Howe developed a mechanical version he patented in 1846. However, it was not until Isaac Singer introduced the treadle sewing machine that people and flag manufacturers could begin to really mass produce flags of different kinds.
By the advent of the Civil War, a flag manufacturer was producing up to 70% of American flags by machine. By 1876, the stripes were made by machines buy the company still attached the stars by hand. This was to disappear by the time of the American Spanish War in 1898. Although some flags, such as military ones did have hand-painted stars.
Today, most flags, except for those produced by a custom flag maker and other specialists, are made by machine. You can still, however, take your original design to someone who sews by hand or a specialist. It still remains possible to have a custom flag made using the older methods.
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