Flag with gold stars?

Discussion in 'American Flag History' started by Michael, Nov 8, 2007.

  1. Josey

    Josey New Member

    In case anyone was interested in seeing the Purple Heart Medal and documents that came with this flag I posted a few pics.

    Josey

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  2. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

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    TO Josey : EXCELLENT Documentation !!! :D


    TO Nick : I understand what you and Peter have been saying, or at least I think I do. My point (such as it is) is that regardless of HOW the Stars came to be that color (oxidation/bleeding of the sizing used on the Stars or the dimming/fading of the original non-white color), I find it VERY interesting that the threads used to sew on the Stars remains SO white. That's all.

    I would think that whatever turned those Stars that particular color would have had a similar "effect" on the white thread as well. But since it didn't, that's what drew my attention.

    Maybe the pictures had the effect of re-inforcing Josey's first entry on the subject back on page two (entry #15). Specifically the last paragraph of that entry :

    "Since these flags are rare and carry some value it wouldn't surprise me that someone may fake one to sell to an unsuspecting buyer. The real gold star casket flags are easy to identify by the fact that the stitching around the stars are white and the material will not glow under a black light."

    I don't know what materials were used in the making of her Flag. While I may assume that the body of the Flag itself is either cotton or wool, the stars are probably cotton, and the thread to sew them onto the Union of the Flag is cotton, I really don't know enough about identifying the fabrics to register a valid opinion about them at this stage.

    So, since I don't really know anything about that "stuff", all I can say is that the pictures sure are good and the thread to sew on the Stars sure is white! :D


    Robin Hickman
    Eugene, Oregon, USA
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  3. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Robin,
    If one follows my theory, it is the chemical treatment of the die cut stars that leads to the discoloration. (Treated with sizing to make them stiff enough to place accurately on the obverse of the canton.) There is no need for any such chemical treatment on the sheet of white cotton that is placed on the reverse of the canton that will eventually produce the stars on the back side, nor would the cotton sewing thread need to be treated the same way. Indeed, it appears that the sewing thread is treated with something that resists discoloration as it does not suffer the same fate as the portions of the white stripes that turn into golden star shadows.

    Nick
     
  4. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

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    Hi, Nick ! :D

    Yes, I'm pretty sure I follow your theory, and Peter's hypothetical too. I am not arguing against either of them in any way, shape, or form. I just find it "interesting" that the pristine, white thread appears to be totally untouched by whatever caused the Stars' "discoloration" and "bleeding".


    Robin
     
  5. skybluestoday

    skybluestoday New Member

    I believe I, too, have one of these vintage gold-starred casket flags in my possession. I picked it up at a flea market when I was in high school back in the 1980s and have held onto it for over 25 years. Recently, when sifting through some boxes of old stuff to cull some items I could sell or get rid of, I came across it again.

    The gold stars intrigued me, and a little bit of internet sleuthing brought me here. This particular flag shows the stitched gold stars on both sides, along with the clean white stitching. There is no manufacturer's edge stamp (unlike several of the vintage US-produced flags I have seen), which may bolster the flag's claim to a European pedigree.

    I'm probably going to list it on eBay, but I thought I would check in and see if anyone has any fresh information on how valuable these are nowadays.
     
  6. Josey

    Josey New Member

    Let us know if you do post it on eBay. I would like to follow the auction. Maybe you will get some additional information about the flag from the people who frequent eBay and you could post that info here. Good luck with it.

    Josey
     
  7. Josey

    Josey New Member

    I just did a quick eBay search and found a gold star flag listed. It is item number 120691703228 I don't know how to post a link or I would have done so to make it easier to find. The sellers listing does have some additional information some of which I have copied to here.

    Josey

    Based on comments received from inquirers to the Flags Of The World website over the past ten years, and confirmation of their existence by Whitney Smith, flags with gold stars were definitely used for caskets of servicemen who died in action in Europe toward the end of World War II or shortly thereafter - it seems to have been a short lived phenomenon, and that only for bodies returned from southern Germany, as I recall (but that was the American zone).
    --- Rob Raeside, Director, Flags of the World website, 2-26-2010 (http://flagspot.net/flags/)
    ______________________________
    My hometown legion has a goldstar american flag, and this is how it was explained to me....
    During WWII out of the many flag companies that spung up during that time, one had the idea that flags that were draped over fallen soldiers coffins were given flags with gold stars, in line with the gold stars that we shown in the windows of family that had lost someone during the war.
    According to the info that I have found, this was a very short lived practice, i haven't found anything confirming numbers, i was told that it could have been as few as a 150 gold-star flags were used for the fallen...again, that is just one set of numbers, it could have been more, but if that number is accurate, they are a very rare flag. As far as I can tell, the reason for such a short run was that someone in the gov't with clout decided that the flags weren't regulation, and couldn't be produced for any reason.
    The color make look "stained" or "tan" at a first glance, but they are gold stars on the flag, especially when compared to the stripes. I am currently trying to compile any information on the gold-star american flags, they are a very special piece of American history.

    Chanute cemetery holds mystery: gold-starred flags
    CHANUTE, KS - Locked away in the chapel of Elmwood Cemetery are hundreds of burial flags of fallen U.S. veterans. Faded and worn, these flags represent a soldier's ultimate sacrifice.
    While most of the flags look just like any other U.S flag, a few of the flags stand out from the rest. Everything else on the flags is geometrically correct, but the stars on seven flags are gold.
    "A gentleman turned (a gold-starred flag) in this year for a member of his family, and my daughter-in-law Karen Madden found it and was curious about it," said Ardith Madden, chairman of the Avenue of Flags.
    In an article Karen Madden found, retired historian Harold Langley from the Smithsonian's Flag Department speculated on the gold-starred flags.
    Langley believed a small, French garment factory was contracted to make casket flags near the end of World War II, because the demand for the burial flags increased as the U.S. made a push through Germany during November 1944, resulting in thousands of casualties.
    Langley speculated the management of the factory must have heard somewhere of the Gold Star Mothers and assumed that the stars of the flags were supposed to be gold if the flag was to be used as a casket flag.
    Langley estimated about 500 of the gold-starred flags were made before the error was discovered and corrected. Because the need for the flags was so great, however, the gold-starred flags were distributed to the Signal Corps for use.
    Jennifer Jones of the Museum of American History and a colleague of Langley, said the actual number of flags is unknown.
    There could be more gold-starred flags at the Elmwood cemetery. Ardith Madden said a number of boxes haven't been gone through yet.
    Whitney Smith, director of the Flag Research Center in Winchester, Mass., and author of 27 books on flags, isn't so sure about Langley's version.
    Smith said no official documentation of the gold-starred flags exists, but he acknowledges that many variations of the U.S. flag do. Many of the stars are khaki-colored like the uniforms. Some of them were gold, others off-white.
    In some flags, two-thirds of the stars were white while the others were gold.
    Smith theorizes that the flags may have been made in Europe by Europeans unfamiliar with the U.S. flag, or by an American individual or officer who took the idea of using a gold star as a symbol of death in service. Smith believes that Langley's assertion that the gold-starred flags were made in France is possible.
    France would certainly be a logical place from several standpoints, because of the number of Americans dying there, Smith said.
    Jones said it is possible that a town commissioned the flags to be made with gold stars representing those who died in the war.
    "These are strictly theories, and I don't think there will ever be a whole lot of proof or a definitive answer to all of this," Jones said.
    --- The Wichita Eagle, Sunday, 7-10-2005
     
  8. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Here's the link to the eBay flag:

    ULTRARARE ANTIQUE US CASKET FLAG w/48 GOLD STARS 5x9.5 - eBay (item 120691703228 end time Mar-07-11 19:52:59 PST)

    While there may have been burial flags made with gold stars, I stand my my position that the stars on the eBay flag (and all other "48 star flag with gold stars" that I've seen) have just discolored from white to tan. I have seen that phenomenon on other flags from the WW II Era and they were definately manufactured with plain white stars, not gold, but those white stars discolored to the exact same shade of tan as seen on the ebay flag.

    Nick A
    Columbia Maryland
     
  9. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    Re: Flag with gold stars? How able gold stripes?

    How about gold stripes? To me this just confirms Nick's theory but I guess some folks want meaning instead of random accidents.

    Article from FOTW site:
    48 Star Flags with Gold Stars or Stripes (U.S.)

    gold stripe flag.jpg
     
  10. AmericaHurrah

    AmericaHurrah Member

    Fabric shortage during wartime seems to have caused the use of a tan/khaki/gold colored fabric by several flag-makers. I presume it was the only color available to them. Sometimes such flags have some white stars and some tan. Sometimes all tan. I see them quite regularly. They are an interesting phenomenon, but not as unusual as one might think.
     
  11. AmericaHurrah

    AmericaHurrah Member

    Jim Ferrigan knows quite a bit about them. Someone might ask him. Don't know if he participates here.

    The flag with dark and light stripes is cool. I have seen this before too, but never so prominently. I suspect the reason is the same.
     
  12. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Was the fabric off-color when the flag was made? Or was the fabric of a lesser quality, or perhaps treated/un-treated differently from the typical white star/stripe material so that it discolored over time?

    Nick A
    Columbia MD

    Photos from my flag collections:
    Collection: Antique American Flags
     
  13. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

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    With the current eBay Flag, as well as the photos I've seen of the other "gold star" Flags, I am STILL most intrigued by the "apparent" fact that the cotton stars are "gold" and the cotton thread used to sew them onto the blue Union is SO abundantly WHITE!

    One would assume that IF they were both present on the Flag at the same time during the staining "process", then they would both be subject to the same "staining" effects at the same time, right? BUT..... It sure doesn't look that way, does it?

    But then..... In addition to NOT being a flag "expert", I am also NOT a cloth or fabric "expert" either !!!



    Robin "Freckled, NOT Tanned" Hickman
    Eugene, Oregon, USA
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  14. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Robin,
    Flagmakers typically use the same color thread to stitch designs onto the flag: white stars would be stitched on with white thread. Look closely at antique Sons in Service flags and you will usually see the blue stars are sewn onto the white rectangle with blue thread.

    I suspect that the star material was "sized" or stiffened before they were cut into stars so as to facilitate rapid placement of the stars on the blue canton. There would be no need to similarly treat the white sewing thread. Over time, the chemicals used to size the star fabric turned tan/gold, while the untreated cotton thread remained white.

    Or at least that is how my theory works out.

    Nick
     
  15. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

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    Hi, Nick!


    I know, and I understand, your "theory" of the sizing on the stars being the "cause" of the golden discoloration of the Stars.

    REPEAT: I know and I understand...


    My point is that the white COTTON thread did NOT change color as the Stars did. Or more precisely, the VERY ABSORBANT WHITE COTTON thread did NOT change color as the stars did.

    Cotton is a very absorbant material, which is why we use it for towels. Towels really "suck up" the water, if you know what I mean. Sometimes a freshly used bath towel holds more water than a well-thought out theory.

    Over the many, many decades there have been thousands, perhaps miilions, of old Flags that have managed to get stained in a wide variety of ways. The Red & Blue of the Flag "bleeds" onto (and into) other surfaces. The metal grommets stain the white cotton canvas header and other fabric surfaces they touch. Stains are transferred from the colored cardboard of the boxes the Flags are stored in. The Flags are stained by the colored tissue paper and wrapping paper they are wrapped in. Flags have been hung against walls and have had their "backsides" stained by wallpaper and paint. Interment Flags that have been folded up inside of "shadow boxes" have had their exposed surfaces stained by the wood (and/or shellac, lacquer, paint, etc.) of the boxes they were encased in.

    Seeing how absorbant cotton is, then should it not follow that there is a strong possibility that the cotton thread used to affix the Stars to the blue Union would, in all likelyhood, some of whatever caused the Stars to change to a "golden color?


    But for right now, at least, it's all a matter of "opinion" and "conjecture". Sure would be "nice" to know for sure.....


    Maybe one of those Flags with the "Gold Stars" should be carefully de-constructed and subjected to microscopic and chemical examination and analysis???



    Robin Hickman
    Eugene, Oregon, USA
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  16. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Robin,
    Excellent points. For my "theory" to hold water the white cotton thread would have to be unaffected by the chemical changes that took place in the stars to turn them from white into tan, or "gold." The fact that we have seen "gold star flags" where the white stripes show evidence of discoloration from "shadow stars" that they were folded against for decades shows that the stars DO affect other parts of the flag. Why, then, is the sewing thread still white??

    I have no plausable answer to that except to guess that the cotton bunting that the stars and stripes are made of are susceptable to this discoloration while the sewing thread, which is made via a different process (as it is subjected to much greater stresses in the flag fabrication) is either treated or un-treated differently.

    Anyone out there know any textile experts?

    Nick A
    Columbia Maryland
     
  17. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

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    QUOTE (ME, earlier...) : "Maybe one of those Flags with the "Gold Stars" should be carefully de-constructed and subjected to microscopic and chemical examination and analysis???"


    I would say that the larger cotton "sewing" thread is more than likely than not manufactured in a different manner than the smaller cotton thread used to make cotton fabric. BUT..... Whether it is THAT much more resistant to "staining" is WAY beyond my knowledge and experience!


    QUOTE (ME, earlier... and earlier) : "Maybe one of those Flags with the "Gold Stars" should be carefully de-constructed and subjected to microscopic and chemical examination and analysis???"



    Robin
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  18. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

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    Vintage 48-Star American Flag for sale on eBay that has some "gold stars", and shows some star-shaped "transfer" to part of Flag folded up against them.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/vintage-48-star-american-flag-5x9-LQQK-/250787660946?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3a641c0492


    Here is a copy of the only picture included with the auction. Although it is NOT a close-up of the "union", I don't see any signs of the "stark white" thread we've been discussing, but the self-evident "staining" is.

    [​IMG]


    Starting Bid = $20.00
    Shipping = $8.00 (Economy Shipping)

    Auction's Description :

    "up for grabs is a vintage american flag 5x9.it has 48 stars and is made of some kind of cloth.i dont know much about it except its old.its machine sewn,and it is yellowed from age,stars imprinted into dust on flag due to folding and age.flag is in great condition,no tears or holes.i didnt want to clean it because i wasnt sure how.plus it shows its age and i like that.overall flag is awesome.payment must be received within 3 days of auction close,i will ship within 3 days of clear payment thanks and good luck."



    Robin
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  19. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    "Although it is NOT a close-up of the "union", I don't see any signs of the "stark white" thread we've been discussing, but the self-evident "staining" is."

    If you enlarge that picture you can see (albeit somewhat pixelated) the white lines of stitching cutting across the arms of the stars. I am confident that this does indicate that the sewing threads are stark white. If the thread had discolored to exactly the same tan hue as the stars then I think those lines would appear darker due to their being in a slight depression in the fabric.

    Shall we buy it at dissect it?:eek:

    Nick
     
  20. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    Just another data point / I was at a flea market today and saw a 48 star flag that exhibited the same tan/gold discoloration of the stars. And also clear impressions on the white stripes I guess the flag was folded and whatever discounted the stars got on the stripes. I was amazed at how remarkably similar to the one pictured above. They wanted $100 for it (cotton, maybe 4x6 or 5x 8).

    Thought it too rich for my blood, particularly since I look at it as a badly discounted/stained flag.
     

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