42-Star “Unofficial” American Flag, circa 1890, Printed Cotton, created to celebrate Washington Statehood, measuring 17” x 12” a larger “Parade Size” without pole, Very Fine. This Parade size 42 Star Flag celebrates Washington Statehood and dates to circa 1890. It is a Printed Cotton, 42-Star American Flag measuring 17” x 12” being a large “Parade Size” but without pole. Never used or attached to a pole, one small 1.5” fabric tear and even in overall tone. The 42 star flag is interesting from a historical perspective, both because 42 was never an “official” star count, and because 42 star flags were only produced for 8 months, from November 1889 to July 4, 1890. This flag is very scarce being “unofficially” in effect for only 243 days. The United States had 42 states, but just one day before Washington State's “42” would have become official on July 3, 1890, Idaho entered the Union as the 43rd State. Consequently, collectors recognize that the 42-Star flag representing Washington Statehood never became “official,” despite having a period of 243 days with 42 states. Very Scarce.
After 1818, star counts became official on the 4th of July each year. A new star was therefore officially added on Independence Day for every state that had been added over the preceding "flag year".
Flag makers, however, did not wait for Independence Day and "official" star counts. Flag making was a competitive industry, and no one wanted to be making 38 star flags when their competitors were making 42 star flags. On many occasions, particularly in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, flag-makers would speculate the number of states that were going to be added and add the stars before they were official.
It was for this precise reason that 42 was never an official star count. Idaho received statehood on July 3, 1890, taking the star count to 43 just one day before 42 would have become the official number. This fact makes 42 star flags an interesting part of our heritage and a classic display of American capitalism.