Very Rare U. S. Coast Guard Commissioning Pennant. c.1910-WWII. Official U. S. Coast Guard pennant size No. 5 (3-1/2" w x 113” long). Likely pre-1940.
Condition is very good, just a few light stains or discoloration. Early pennant was flown from the mast-head on commissioning and is clean, probably has never been flown. Swallow-tailed pennant with field consisting of 16 vertical red/white stripes, with 13 blue stars in graduated sizes on white field at the head, press-dyed on wool with a single brass grommet on the canvas bound header. Very good condition. Rare early design. The only commissioning pennant we can find in this extremely long size!
The commissioning pennant is flown to indicate a vessel under the command of a commissioned officer or a commissioned warrant officer. Its hoisting is the central event in the commissioning of a new ship and from that moment until the vessel is decommissioned the pennant is flown day and night. While originally available in a large number of sizes, the commissioning pennant today has shortened and is now available only in sizes 6 and 7, the longest being 73".
More history on commissioning pennants:
“United States Revenue Cutter Service or U.S. Coast Guard commissioning pennant, made in the period between approximately 1910 and WWII (U.S. involvement 1941-45). This beautiful design was created by an act of Congress in 1799, when there were 16 states in the Union. For this reason, it has 16 vertical, red and white stripes. Some early illustrations show an eagle on a white canton, followed by vertical stripes, sometimes ending in a red over white stripe, but no originals survive. Some show blue stars on a white field, followed by 16 stripes. This example has 13 stars.
“Although the flag design changed when the RCS became the Coast Guard in 1915, the commissioning pennant did not. This narrow banner was hoisted at the commissioning ceremony, then flown at all times when the ship was at sea, with a few exceptions. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the length of these pennants probably reached as much as 100 feet. During the 20th century they became more ceremonial and a matter of tradition than necessity, so the size was drastically shortened.
"The Revenue Cutter Service was founded in 1790 by U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, through an act of the United States Congress. Its job was to protect merchant ships in and around major ports, and to thus ensure not only the safe transport of goods with regard to looting and piratery, but also to oversee that proper tariffs were collected on trade goods. Following the Revolutionary War, America sold its ships and had no navy. Vast debt taken on to fund the war was partially repaid by their sale and the most significant source of revenue for the Treasury Department was taxes on import goods. 10 ships were ordered by the "Revenue Marine", as it was originally called, and distributed among various ports. And while the U.S. Treasury held the overall umbrella for the Revenue Marine, the captain of each ship was directly responsible to the customs collector in whatever port the ship sailed from. Captains had wide-ranging authority to do what they saw fit to keep order and could board and search any vessel, whether docked or at sea.
“From 1790 until the U.S. Navy reformed in 1798, the Revenue Marine cutters were the only armed American ships in government service. Afterwards, when we went to war at sea, they fought alongside the Navy and have since participated in every major U.S. seafaring conflict, including D-Day during WWII. The mission, general orders, and organization of Revenue Marine was reformed and revised a couple of times during the 19th century. First by default, then by general orders, one of its functions became the rescue of ships in distress. In 1894, the name was formally changed to the Revenue Cutter Service and this is the term most widely used today by historians and collectors of related artifacts.
“In 1915 The RCS merged with the U.S. Lifesaving Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard. As of this date it was no longer responsible to the U.S. Treasury, but instead became a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, responsible to the president. Today it falls under the Department of Homeland Security in times of peace, but at times of war its direction can be transferred by the president to the U.S. Navy.” Jeff Bridgman Antiques