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).


Flying the flag for West Virginia Statehood, and remembering Muhammed Ali

June 20, 2016

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia joined the fractured union as the 35th state.

Yes, that was during the Civil War.  Yes, West Virginia had been the northwestern counties of Virginia.  No, I’m not sure of the history of how Congress decided Virginia had consented to be divided.

In any case, per the guidelines in the U.S. Flag Code, West Virginians should fly the U.S. flag today in honor of their statehood, 153 years ago.  West Virginia no doubt has lots of celebrations, reenactments, and general festive events planned.

West Virginia's State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011

West Virginia’s State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011 — built in 1931. From O Palsson’s Flickr collection: “As I was traveling through Charleston, the capital of West Virgina, during blue hour (my favorite time of day) a couple of days after Thanksgiving, I happened upon this beautiful sight of the State Capitol Building reflected in the Kanawha River flowing by in total stillness, so I just had to stop and capture the scene. I didn’t have a tripod handy, so this is not a long-exposure nightshot, just a regular hand-held shot accomplished by bumping up the ISO as much as I dared to get correct exposure at acceptable shutter speed (ended up being 1/40 sec) and doing my best to keep the camera steady.”

Kathryn and I have a few fond memories of Charleston.  Then-West Virginia Attorney General Charlie Brown was one of the few with enough wisdom to offer me a job, when I graduated from the National Law Center at George Washington University as an older student.  Brown promised to clean up West Virginia politics, and he had a lively, very young crew of attorneys fighting coal companies, oil companies, loggers, shady real estate people, and corrupt city, county and state officials.  One fellow in the office complained that he’d “had to argue eight cases” at the State Supreme Court that year, in his first year out of law school.

But the corrupt officials knew what they were doing.  Brown could only offer $25,000 a year, and in Charleston it was unlikely we’d be able to find any work for Kathryn.  Tough to attract crime fighters at less-than crime-fighting rates. It would have been a more than 75% cut in income.  We made a trip there to mull it over, baby on the way (pre-digital photographs buried in the archives).  Brown got a special dispensation to offer me $5,000 more.

Great tour of the Capitol, great interviews with the office lawyers.  Kathryn and I sat for a long while in the deserted West Virginia Supreme Court (sort of tucked into an attic of the Capitol) discussing how in the world we could afford to move the Charleston and take on the work.  We drove around the city, looking at houses for sale and rent; we gazed at the Kanawha River and discussed the future for the city.

We went to dinner in a tiny restaurant touted as Charleston’s finest, which was a long way from good eateries in D.C.  We discussed with our host the cultural pickings in Charleston.  We could give up the symphony but get back to fishing and practice fly fishing . . .

A few tables over, the maitre ‘d brought in a few extra chairs, and then seated Muhammed Ali and his party.  Our waiter asked that we not make a scene.

I don’t remember for what charitable purpose Ali was in Charleston, but the event was over and his hosts took him out to the good restaurant in Charleston, too.

Ali was a slower, sedate and gentle version of the fiery fighter he’d been.  Parkinson’s disease already had him in its grip.  His voice, soft as it could be at times, was still strong enough to carry across a table.  There was a young boy with the group, under five years old.  Ali had lost steps, but not spirit.  He produced a couple of balls from a pocket and proceeded to dazzle the kid with sleight-of-hand magic tricks.  He picked one of the balls from behind the kid’s ear, and the kid giggled wonderfully.  Balls appeared here, disappeared there — I remember thinking how much easier those tricks could be with hands that big; but Ali also had difficulty dealing with a knife and fork.  Working magic tricks pulled years away from Ali, and he seemed much younger, much more deft than he really was.  The little boy laughed and giggled through the meal.  It was a happy affair.

Our dinners finished about the same time.  As we got up, Ali looked over at us and said, “You wonder why I spend so much time with children?  They are the future.”

I turned down the offer from West Virginia.  A job I’d hoped for at American Airlines fell through, but a position opened up at the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) at Bill Bennett’s Department of Education.  A year or so later I saw small item in the Washington Post that Charlie Brown had been indicted on some charge.  Coal companies still have a lot of clout in West Virginia.

This is an anniversary day for Ali, too:  June 20, 1967, Muhammed Ali was convicted in Houston, Texas, of evading the draft.  That conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fly those flags in West Virginia.

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June 1, 2016: Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee for Statehood Day

June 1, 2016

Our laws on respecting and flying Old Glory encourage citizens to fly U.S. flags on specific dates, and on the date of statehood of the state in which a citizen lives.

Kentucky joined the union on June 1, 1792, the 15th state.  Tennessee joined four years later, on June 1, 1796, becoming the 16th state.

Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee — or wherever Kentuckians or Tennesseeans may be — in honor of statehood.

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

Kentucky's state flag, by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s state flag features a Native American and European colonist standing together, and the state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” Photo by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s admission to the union pushed the U.S. flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes.   President George Washington signed the law that authorized the U.S. flag be expanded to 15 stripes in early 1794.  I’ve not pinned down the history of what happened next.  So far as I know there was no law expanding the flag to 16 stripes, and in 1818, Congress said the flag would be 13 stripes, with stars equal to the number of states (the law specified no specific pattern for the stars).

A 15-striped Star-spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that is now the lyric to our national anthem.  President James Monroe signed the 13-stripe law four years later, in 1818.

What happened in between?  I suspect there are a lot of 15-stripe flags, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a 16-stripe flag somewhere.  A variety of stars-and-stripes flags cropped up, which the 1818 law was intended to squelch.

Residents of the Bluegrass State and the Volunteer State should fly their flags today, in honor of their state’s having joined the union on June 1.

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

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


February 6, Massachusetts Statehood Day

February 6, 2016

Flag etiquette guides and the U.S. Flag Code urge residents of Massachusetts to fly U.S. flags today, to honor Massachusetts’s joining the Union.

U.S. flag flies at Quincy Market in Boston (a 4th of July celebration is pictured) - WHDH Channel 7 image

U.S. flag flies at Quincy Market in Boston (a 4th of July celebration is pictured) – WHDH Channel 7 image

Massachusetts’s statehood is figured as the date the colony ratified the U.S. Constitution. A convention ratified the document on February 6, 1788. Massachusetts was the 6th colony to ratify.

The next flag-flying date is February 12, in honor of Lincoln’s birthday.


Fly flags on January 29, Kansans! Happy Statehood Day 2016!

January 28, 2016

Kansas celebrates 155 years of statehood, though still mired in the worst budget situation of any state in quite a while.

Fitting, perhaps, for a state whose admission brought the nation to the brink of civil war — which the nation subsequently plunged into.

Regardless the circumstances of its statehood, the U.S. Flag Code urges Americans to fly the U.S. flag on the date their state was admitted into the Union. Kansans, unfurl those colors!

 

U.S. and Kansas flags flying together in Ashland, Kansas. Photo by courthouselover, flickr, via Pinterest

U.S. and Kansas flags flying together in Ashland, Kansas. Photo by courthouselover, flickr, via Pinterest

Teachers, take note: Historical records from the National Archives and Records Administration, on Kansas statehood.  Good DBQ material for AP history classes, maybe good material for projects:

Kansas Statehood, January 29, 1861

Located in the historical records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate at the Center for Legislative Archives are many documents that illustrate the important role Congress plays in the statehood process. On January 29, 1861 Kansas became the 34th state; 2011 marks its 150th anniversary. Here is a small sampling of the many congressional records that tell the story of Kansas’s tumultuous path to statehood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Four-cent U.S. Postal Service stamp issued in 1961, honoring the centennial of Kansas's statehood with the state flower, the sunflower.

Four-cent U.S. Postal Service stamp issued in 1961, honoring the centennial of Kansas’s statehood with the state flower, the sunflower. Wikimedia image


Connecticut flies U.S. flags for statehood, January 9

January 9, 2016

Technically, states didn’t exist at all, yet.

But on January 9, 1788, Connecticut became the fifth of the 13 colonies to ratify the proposed Constitution for the United States of America, and by that action set the date we count as Connecticut’s entery into the union.

Within 12 months, four more colonies ratified the document, totaling nine ratifications required to put the Constitution into effect.  When the government of the new nation started functioning in 1789, Connecticut was counted as the fifth state.

Connecticut capitol building, Hartford

Capitol building for Connecticut in Hartford; this photo is from the rear of the building, so the U.S. flag is flying correctly on its own right. The building was completed in 1878. The dome is covered in gold. Image from Wikimedia Commons

To avoid political scheming by anti-federalist colony governors, especially Patrick Henry in Virginia, in September 1787 James Madison proposed that the draft constitution be ratified not by legislatures in the colonies, but instead by a specially-called convention of the people of the colony.  Connecticut’s convention met first on January 3, 1788. With six days of discussion and debate, the convention passed a resolution of ratification on January 9.

So by tradition, January 9 is Connecticut’s statehood anniversary.  According to U.S. law, the Flag Code and tradition, citizens and residents of a state fly their flags on statehood anniversaries.

Happy birthday Connecticut, 228 years old.

Next date to fly the U.S. flag is January 18, 2016, to honor the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. January 18 is the official holiday; January 19 is the actual birthday. You may fly your colors on both dates.

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Carol Highsmith photo of Connecticut's Hall of Flags

Hall of Flags in the Connecticut State Capitol Building; photo by the great photo-historian Carol Highsmith, from the Library of Congress collection; the statue is Connecticut’s Civil War Governor, William A. Buckingham (1804-1875), honored for his personal contributions to the equipping of Connecticut’s men fighting in the Civil War;.


New Mexico flies U.S. flags January 6 for Statehood Day

January 6, 2016

President William Howard Taft signing the bill that made New Mexico a state, in 1912. (Other people in the photo, I have not yet identified). Image from OldPicture.com

President William Howard Taft signing the bill that made New Mexico a state, in 1912. (Other people in the photo, I have not yet identified). Image from OldPicture.com

New Mexico became the 47th member of the Union on January 6, 1912.  New Mexicans should fly their U.S. flags today in honor of statehood, the U.S. Flag Code urges.

U.S. and New Mexico flags fly from the state education administration building in Santa Fe, 2014

U.S. and New Mexico flags fly from the state education administration building in Santa Fe, 2014. The third flag is the U.S. POW/MIA flag.

I don’t think Statehood Day is a big deal in New Mexico.  New Mexicans love art, though, and statehood and history of the land and the peoples who live there are celebrated throughout Santa Fe and New Mexico.  The New Mexico Art Museum features a lot about history.

The New Mexico State Capitol is one of the more unique in the U.S. There is no grand dome. Instead, the building is a large, circular structure, a giant kiva, honoring New Mexico’s ancient residents and ancestors.

We toured the Capitol in July 2014. It features a massive collection of art by and about New Mexico, and is worth a stop as one would intend to visit any great art museum.

"Emergence," a representation of the creation of the present Earth and people, by Michael A. Naranjo, 2000. Part of the massive collection of New Mexico Art at the State Capitol -- this one outside the building itself.

“Emergence,” a representation of the creation of the present Earth and people, by Michael A. Naranjo, 2000. Part of the massive collection of New Mexico Art at the State Capitol — this one outside the building itself.

Simple Pleasures of New Mexico, acrylic by Gary Morton, 1992

Simple Pleasures of New Mexico,  stunning painting in acrylic by Gary Morton, 1992

If you’re in Santa Fe, plan to spend a half of a day, at least, looking at the Capitol and its art collections.  There are more than 400 pieces on display, sculpture, paintings, mixed media, and more.  It’s a world class gallery, free for the browsing.  Much of the art packs a powerful emotional punch, too, such as the sculpture outside the building honoring the vanished native tribes of North America.

Happy statehood, New Mexico.

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USPS stamp honoring the centennial of New Mexico's statehood, in 2012. The stamp features a representation of the beauty of the state found in its desert hills and mountains. VirtualStampClub.com

USPS stamp honoring the centennial of New Mexico’s statehood, in 2012. The stamp features a representation of the beauty of the state found in its desert hills and mountains. VirtualStampClub.com

 


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