July 4, 2016: Fly your flag today! 240th anniversary of the public reading of the Declaration of Independence

July 3, 2016

It’s a day of tradition — oddly enough, since we are in reality a very new nation, and Lee’s resolution to declare independence from Britain came on July 2.

A soak in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is nothing if not a steeping in tradition.  Fly your flag today, to celebrate the independence of the American colonies of Britain.

Fourth of July: NPR has already read the Declaration of Independence (or will soon, if you’re up early), PBS is ready to broadcast the Capitol Fourth concert  (maybe a rebroadcast is available, if you’re off at your own town’s fireworks — check your local listings), your town has a parade somewhere this weekend, or a neighboring community does, and fireworks are everywhere.

At the White House, traditionally, new citizens are sworn in — often people who joined our armed forces and fought for our nation, before even getting the privileges of citizenship.  Fireworks on the Capital Mall will be grand, with the White House hosting a few thousand military people and their families from some of the best views.  Traditionally, five photographers, chosen by lottery, get to shoot photos of the fireworks from the windows of the Washington Monument; will that occur, with the Monument shut down from public view for repair from the earthquake?

There will be great fireworks also in Baltimore Harbor over Fort McHenry, the fort whose siege inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-spangled Banner” from his boat in the harbor, in 1814. Firworks will frighten the bluebirds nesting at Yorktown National Battlefield.  I suspect there will be a grand display at Gettysburg, on the 150th anniversary of the end of that battle. July 4, 1863, also marked the end of the Siege of Vicksburg; tradition holds that Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July for 83 years after that. I’ll wager there will be fireworks there tonight.  In Provo, Utah, the city poobahs will have done all they can to try to live up to their self-proclaimed reputation as having the biggest Independence Day celebration in the nation.  The celebration in Prescott, Arizona, is muted by the tragic deaths of 19 Hot Shot firefighters last week; will drought halt the fireworks, too?  There will be fireworks around the Golden Gate Bridge, in Anchorage, Alaska, reflecting on the waters of Pearl Harbor, and probably in Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas Islands.

Fireworks on the Fourth is a long tradition — a tradition that kept John Adams and Thomas Jefferson alive, until they both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in 1826, the sounds of the fireworks letting Adams know the celebration had begun (Adams erroneously celebrated that Jefferson, the Declaration’s author, still lived, unable to know Jefferson had passed just hours earlier).

Remember to put your flag up today.

Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag -- Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

Last flag on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag — Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

If you’re not on the Moon, here are some tips on flag etiquette, how to appropriately fly our national standard.


Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site. NASA caption: Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger descent stage comes into focus from the new lower 50 km mapping orbit, image width 102 meters. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

This is mostly an encore post, but I so love that photo of the flag with the Earth in the distance.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4 — Kathryn Knowles’s birthday. We’re always happy the town chimes in with the celebratory spirit.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and the cast of thousands of patriots including George Washington.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

July 3: Fly your flag for Idaho statehood

July 3, 2016

Especially if you have a 43-star flag, fly it today for Idaho statehood.

Idaho joined the union on July 3, 1890, the 43rd state. It was a time of a flurry of new states, however, and very few 43-star flags were made. Is there one in Idaho?

Regardless the number of stars, Idahoans fly their U.S. flags today in honor of Idaho statehood, July 3, 1890.

I found this history of 43-star flags at a site selling antiques and memorabilia — an interesting history which I crib completely here from Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques.

Alas, this flag has sold.

43 Star, Idaho Statehood, American Flag

43 stars, Idaho statehood, one of the rarest star counts among surviving American flags of the 19th century; an exceptionally rare U.S. infantry battle flag, entirely hand-sewn, made for an African-American unit of civil war origin, circa 1889:

Numerous flags were produced with unofficial star counts during the second half of the 19th century, made by flag-maker’s anticipating the addition of more states. Interestingly enough, some flags were officially adopted by the United States Congress, but for all practical purposes never produced. Among these is the 43 star flag, which reflects the addition of Idaho. A tiny handful of flags with this star count are known, but they are among the most rare of all examples throughout American history. To understand why, one may turn back the clock to the 1876 and examine flag production from that year until the addition of the 44th state.

After the Flag Act of 1818, the official “flag year” began every July 4th. So on Independence Day, all states having been added to the Union over the previous year were officially given a star. Makers of flags, however, did not wait for July 4th and official star counts. Flag-making was a competitive industry and many manufacturers added stars before new states were actually added, wishing to create a reason for consumers to buy new flags and one-up each other in sales.

In 1876 the 37 star flag was official, but on August 1st we received our 38th state. Many flag-makers abandoned the 37 star flag when production began for the Centennial International Exposition, a six-month long World’s Fair held in Philadelphia as the first of its kind in America, which served as the nucleus for celebrations of our 100-year anniversary of independence from Britain. In that year 38 stars was a common choice, but other flag-makers actually skipped past 38 all-together, choosing to instead produce 39 star flags, anticipating the addition of the Dakota Territory as one state.

Seeing that Dakota wasn’t coming, production after 1876 seems to have reverted to the 38 star count. Then in 1889, thirteen years later, 39 star flags were once again manufactured with the anticipation of Dakota’s statehood. On November 2nd of that year, a surprise was lay in store for the makers of 39 star flags, when the Dakotas arrived as two different states, which forever rendered 39 star flags both inaccurate and unofficial. Just a few days later, on November 8th, Montana entered the Union as the 41st state, followed by Washington State as number 42 just three days hence on November 11th.

40 star flags were made in limited quantity, reflecting the Dakotas entry. This count is extremely scarce, but not exceptionally rare. Perhaps this is because some flag-makers anticipated the number correctly, and so some of the 40’s are anticipatory flags.

41 star flags, by contrast, are among the rarest that exist in 19th century America. This was a three-day flag and an increase ending in a count of 41 seems to not have been guessed.

In stark contrast, 42 star flags are common. These reflect the four new states that arrived in that week-and-a-half period between November 2nd and the 11th. For the next seven-eight months flag-makers seem to have favored this star count, producing many of them, probably with great enthusiasm for a reason to make new flags.

Just one day before the 42 star flag would have become official, on July 3rd, 1990, Idaho snuck in as the 43rd state, which rendered all of the 42 star flags forever unofficial. The 43 star flag became official on July 4th, but flag-makers basically skipped over the 43 star count entirely. This is because on July 10th, just seven days after Idaho gained statehood, Wyoming was admitted. Practically all flag-makers seem to have predicted this and 43 star flags, while official for one year, were overlooked in favor of those with a count of 44 to add Wyoming as well. For all practical purposes, 43 star flags were not made. Only a tiny handful survive, perhaps ten or so at the most. Of these, three are printed parade flags (a.k.a., “hand-wavers”), while the remainder are larger, pieced-and-sewn examples. I have been privileged to own approximately half of these. Among them, this is the most unusual.

In terms of form and function, this example is constructed as a U.S. Infantry battle flag. It is pieced and seamed entirely with hand-stitching, which is very unusual for the period. The sewing is especially fine and indicative of the very highest quality, as are the materials. The canton and stripes are made of silk. The hoist end was rolled over and bound and there are six silk ties sewn along the leading edge (more were formerly present). There is a knotted silk fringe, gold in color, along three sides, which is typical of infantry battle flags. The stars are embroidered in white silk floss, either by hand or machine, having been executed so well that the method is difficult to ascertain. Embroidered along the 5th red stripe, in the same white floss, are the words “Forest City Light Infantry.” followed by the date “1872”.

A company of African American soldiers by this name, with Civil War roots, existed in Savannah, Georgia. The earliest date I can presently reference for their existence is 1873 (one year before the date on the flag), when an officer of a black G.A.R. unit by this name deposited funds in Freeman’s Bank, which was established in 1866 to assist freed slaves in the unhealthy circumstances of the financially depressed South. Probably the men of this regiment were freed by Union Forces as Sherman’s March (Nov. – Dec. 1864) pressed through the state. Part of the general’s orders read: ” VII. Negroes who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms….” Records concerning African American soldiers in this sort of circumstance are very hard to acquire, as few were kept. Names seldom appear on muster rolls. Whatever the case may be, however, Civil War-related material that concerns black soldiers is rare and interesting and flags are seldom ever encountered in the marketplace, whether war-period or post-war, like this example.

In summary, this is one of the rarest star counts that there is among antique American flags, on a rare and stunning U.S. infantry battle flag, with great colors and exquisite construction, accompanied by its original tassels, and with rare African American association.

Mounting: The flag has not yet been mounted. We employ professional staff with masters degrees in textile conservation and can attend to all of your mounting and framing needs.

Flag size (H x L): 78″ x 81.25″ (incl. fringe).

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