TheNorthernLight

/February2009

7

glazedcottonattachedwithholesforhanging,but
theflagisinsuchgoodcondition,itseemsdoubtful
thatitwaseverhungforlong.Theoppositeendhas
anotherpieceofglazedcottonattached,whichhas
beenappliquédinredwoolwith“1812.”Thispiece
seemstohavebeenaddedlater,wellaftertheflagwas
initiallymade,yethelpstotellitsstory,preservingits
historyofmanufactureduringtheWarof1812and
remindingusofthevaluethatsubsequentfamilygen-
erationsplacedontheflag.

In1829,whenshewas24yearsoldHarrietWhite

marriedBenjaminClarkHarris(1799-1842)of
Boston.Harrietcontinuedtotelltheflagstoryat
familygatheringsuntilherdeathin1887.In1916,a
familymemberwrotedownthedetails;thesenotes
remainedinaboxwiththeflagwhenitwasdonated
totheNationalHeritageMuseumthispastfall.

Whilethisflagisanexcitingadditiontothecol-

lectionbecauseofitshistoryanditswonderfulcondi-
tion,italsohasvaluetothemuseumbecauseofthe
comparisonthatcanbemadetothemuseum’s15-star
flag.Well-knowntomuseumvisitorsandfriendsand
oneofthetreasuresofthecollection,the15-starflag
hangsproudlyintheFarrConferenceCenterina
specially-designedcasetopreserveitforgenerations
tocome.

Themuseum’s15-starflagwasdonatedin1995by

JohnE.Craver.LiketheWhitefamilyflag,the15-
starflagwaspasseddownthroughmultiplegenera-
tionsinthedonor’sfamilybeforecomingtothemu-
seum.Thereareseveralcontrastsbetweenthesetwo

flags,buttogethertheydemonstratehowtheAmeri-
canflagchangedduringtheearly1800sandhow
flagsweremadeandusedbyAmericansduringthis
time.

Aside-by-sidecomparisonpresentsstrikingdif-

ferencesinappearance:oneishuge,whiletheotheris
amoremanageablesize;onehas13stars,whilethe
otherhas15starsandthenow-familiarredandwhite
stripes;oneissilkandtheotherismadefromwool
bunting.Despitethesedifferences,theflagsarealso
muchthesame.Thestarsonbotharearrangedinan
ovalshape.And,whenlookingcloselyatbothflags,
wecanseethehand-sewnseamsandconstruction
similaritieswhichhelptoverifytheearlydateofboth
flags.Theirmaterialsandconstructionauthenticate
thatbothexistedbytheWarof1812.

Whiletodaytheflaghas13redandwhitestripes,

symbolizingtheoriginal13states,andonestarfor
eachstateinthebluecanton,intheearlyyearsofour
country’sexistence,flagdesignwasfarlessuniform.
CongressapprovedthefirstofficialUnitedStatesflag
in1777resolvingthatithave“13stripesalternatered
andwhite”andthattherebe“13starsinabluefield
representinganewconstellation.”Therewasnooffi-
cialmandateonhowthestarsshouldbearranged,so
flagsfromthisperiodoftenshowvariedarrange-
mentsofthestars.Theseguidelineswereuseduntil
1795.

Anewflaglawbecameeffectivein1795,inorder

torecognizethestatesofVermontandKentucky,
whichjoinedtheunionin1791and1792,respec-
tively.Thenewlawretainedtheredandwhitestripes
andbluecantonwithwhitestars,butspecifiedthat
twostripesandtwostarswouldbeaddedtotheflag,
bringingthetotalto15starsand15stripes.Themu-
seum’s15-starflagfollowstheseconventionsasdoes
theStar-SpangledBannerattheSmithsonianInsti-
tution.Therewasstillnohardandfastruleaboutthe
arrangementofthestars,sotheovalpatternshown
onthemuseum’sflagisunusualbutacceptableinthe
eyesofthelaw.

The15-starflagremainedofficialuntil1818,

whenCongressagaindiscussedchanges,motivated,
inpart,bythefactthatfivemorestateshadjoinedthe
unionsince1795.Lawmakersfeltthattocontinue
addingstripeswouldmaketheflaghardtoreadata
distanceanddecreedthat“theflagoftheUnited
Statesbe13horizontalstripes,alternateredand
white;thattheunion[canton]have20stars,whitein
abluefield…ontheadmissionofeverynewstateinto
theUnion,onestarbeaddedtotheunion[canton]of
theflag.”Thisdesignisstillfollowedtoday.The
differencesinappearancebetweenthesetwoflags

FlagIllustrationsin
FlagCatalogueNo.7,
1894,TheWhitehead
&HoagCo.,Newark,
NJ.Collectionofthe
VanGorden-Williams
Library&Archives,
NationalHeritage
Museum,giftof
JacquesNoel
JacobsenJr.