At The Daily Flag on April 10, 2008, I wrote about searching for the earliest photographs of flags that I could find. I have found that most early images (I use the words photograph and image to represent every kind of photographic process) are portraits, and use a plain background. The practice of displaying the flag in a portrait came later.
I found the greatest number of “flag images” within the photographs of U.S. Navy ship in the archives at the Naval Historical Center, which has diligently compiled information about every vessel in the U.S. Navy. In my attempt to find old flags, I have pored over ship photographs that were taken before 1870. Not every ship has an easily identifiable flag, and in many photos the flag is blurred because it was moving in the breeze. As the photos get newer, the flag images are better—obviously due to better equipment.
Here are two photographs of the same ship, but in the first photo she is the CSA Blockade Runner “Advance.” Note the Confederate flying aft (the back of the ship). It is slightly nipped off. This photograph was taken in 1863 in Nassau, Bahamas. I have not definitively identified this particular CSA flag, but I will come back and annotate this post when I do.
Built at Greennock, Scotland in 1862, for use as a River Clyde packet, the Advance was a 902 ton, side-wheel steamer. In 1863, the State of North Carolina bought Advance (formerly named Lord Clyde), and the ship was put to work running the Federal Blockade.
She was one of the most successful Confederate blockade runners, making more than twenty voyages before her capture by USS Santiago de Cuba off Wilmington, North Carolina, on 10 September 1864.
Purchased by the U.S. Navy from the prize court in that month, she was commissioned as USS Advance in October 1864. During the rest of that year, and into 1865, she was active off the North Carolina coast and took part in the assaults on Fort Fisher in December 1864 and January 1865. Advance went to New York in March 1865 and was out of commission there until June, when she was placed back into service and renamed USS Frolic.
Frolic was then assigned to the European Squadron as a dispatch vessel, a mission for which she was well suited by virtue of her small size and good speed. Arriving at Flushing, the Netherlands, in July 1865, she operated in northern European waters and in the Mediterranean until 1869.
Again out of commission from May to September 1869, Frolic’s next active service was patrolling the North Atlantic fishing grounds in April-October 1870. After another period in reserve, she operated off New England for several months in 1872 and was then station ship at New York. In 1875-77, she cruised in South American waters as a unit of the South Atlantic Squadron.
Decommissioned for the last time in October 1877, USS Frolic was sold in October 1883. She was a civilian ship, retaining the name Frolic, for a few years after that.