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Henry Bowman - Flag Parent of Zig Zag Star Pattern

Flag Stich.jpg

On February 23, 1892, Henry A. Bowman, an African American entrepreneur and inventor, received patent #469,395 for his innovative "Device for Making Flags." This patent specifically covered the use of zig-zag stitching for sewing stars onto American flags. Henry's achievement was a significant breakthrough in flag making, as it allowed for the more efficient and precise attachment of stars to the flag's blue canton. His flag company quickly began producing flags that featured the date and patent number on the hoist, marking a proud moment in American history.


Unfortunately, despite his patent, Henry Bowman faced challenges in protecting his innovative technique. Others in the flag-making industry also began using the zig-zag stitching method, leading to disputes over intellectual property rights. In an effort to defend his patent, Bowman brought a case, Bowman v. De Grauw, et al., to the Circuit Court of New York on March 26, 1894. However, the court ruled against him, determining that the zig-zag stitching technique was not sufficiently novel to warrant patent protection. This ruling marked a setback for Bowman, and the legal battle ultimately led to the decline of his flag company.


Henry A. Bowman's story reflects the challenges faced by African American inventors and entrepreneurs during his time. Despite his innovation and patent, he was unable to protect his intellectual property and sustain his flag-making business. Nevertheless, his pioneering work in flag design and production remains a testament to his creativity and determination to contribute to American history.


Additional Resources


Rare Flags:


American National Flag 45 Stars, Zig Zag Stitched by the Henry Bowman Flag Co.


13 Stars, Titled Stars With Large Center: A Rare Configuration



ZigZag Star Patent:


Method of Making Flags


Case Law citation:


Bowman vs. De Grauw


UPenn Law:


The Unmaking of "Black Bill Gates"

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