Help in research of flag story

Discussion in 'Flag Identification and Collecting' started by George B., Jul 5, 2015.

  1. George B.

    George B. New Member

    when I was 7 years old (1982) I was given a flag(13 stars, unsure of pattern at this time) by a woman that my mother took care of. The woman had no children that I knew of and thought of me as a grandchild. At 7 I had no interest in the oral history of the flag.

    My mother listened instead. So the story goes, her deceased husband was given the flag from another relative, and it was said that it was off of the steamship Claremont. The first commercial steamship in the US, run by Robert Livingston, and Robert Fulton.

    I have done a little research and about exhausted my resources. I found out that the woman's deceased husbands family was living in the same area of New York as Fulton and Livingston. And it was possibly given to him by his Great Uncle. So that is a slim possibility.

    Here is where you come in. While I have limited resources I was hoping a few things.

    1. When my parents bring me the flag (in late August I take possession of it and will take pictures and post them based on what areas of the flag is recommended to photograph), could someone give me an approximate age. This would aid in placing it to the right era.

    2. Can anyone point me in the right direction to help verify the rest of the story, any friends or experts on steamboats, meritime etc.

    I will be looking to sell the flag, but I need to verify authenticity. thanks for looking
     
  2. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Greetings, George -- welcome to the forum!

    We'll look forward to seeing the photos of your flag. Offhand I'd say you'll want a general view of the entire flag, and closeups of the canton, stripes, header and hardware (which will show construction details). That, plus the general dimensions, would be a start. Meanwhile, you should continue to research the family history of the person who gave you the flag, and also document your mother's recollections of what she was told about it. Physical examination may provide information about the age of the flag and perhaps the place of manufacture. However, authenticating its relationship to a specific historical event can only be done by establishing a paper trail.

    There's another possibility that you might want to look into as well. A full-size working replica of the steamboat was built in 1909 for commemorative celebrations, and it existed until being scrapped in the mid 1930s. Might it be possible that family lore has mixed up the replica with the original vessel as the source of the flag? There are undoubtedly photos of the replica that might provide some clues.

    Also, for what it's worth: the original North River Steamboat was built in 1807, and the flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes by then.

    Again, glad to have you with us, and we look forward to hearing more about your flag.
     
  3. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Update: after some quick checking on the Library of Congress site, here are stereograph photos of the 1909 steamboat replica, and a close up of her flag. The flag is actually quite interesting: It appears to have 15 stars, arranged in a circle a la Betsy Ross, but only 13 stripes. It's also interesting that the replica was actually called the "Clermont" (you can read the name on her stern). The original was officially the North River Steamboat.

    vfw 3.jpg

    post 844 A.jpg
     
  4. George B.

    George B. New Member

    Thanks for the reply Peter, having not laid eyes on the flag in almost 33 years, I don't know the configuration of the Stars and Stripes. I have wondered if it could possible be a misinterpretation of which boat it may have came from, so I am not expecting too much, but if it is from the replica I may at least be able to identify it quickly. I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas for my parents to bring the flag. I will post the pics ASAP. Again, thanks.
     
  5. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Peter. It is fascinating that in 1909 they based a replica flag off the Betsy Ross legend rather than copy an actual 15-star, 15-stripe flag. The original Star Spangled Banner was in the Smithsonian since 1907 and had been well publicized.
    By the way, thanks for the excellent example of vexillological research.
    Nick
     
  6. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Thanks, Nick. My first guess would be that whoever researched the flag didn't get farther than the fact that it should have 15 stars. In fact, I'm not absolutely certain that there are only 15 -- 14 are visible, and a there is gap in the upper left of the canton (caused by the folds) that almost certainly contains at least one more. There were 17 states in 1807, of course, and I wouldn't be too surprised if this flag actually had 17 stars.
     
  7. George B.

    George B. New Member

    I have the flag in my possession. I will be taking pictures on September 3rd and will post them on that day. Having looked at the flag through the plastic bag it is in I can say that it looks like it may be made of wool bunting. The color is still good and the stitching looks to be done by hand with possible machine stitching done as a repair at some point. As for storage, I need recommendations. I am getting a pair of acid free gloves to handle it, but I need a cheap solution to store it in my safe deposit box.
     
  8. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Thanks for the update, George. We're looking forward to seeing it!
     
  9. George B.

    George B. New Member

    here they are.... have to post them one at a time as they are pretty big.
    IMG_20171211_002003.jpg
     
  10. George B.

    George B. New Member

    number 2
    IMG_20171211_002043.jpg
     
  11. George B.

    George B. New Member

    number 3
    IMG_20171211_002203.jpg
     
  12. George B.

    George B. New Member

  13. George B.

    George B. New Member

    Number 5
    IMG_20171211_001915.jpg
     
  14. George B.

    George B. New Member

    number 6
    IMG_20171211_001923.jpg
     
  15. George B.

    George B. New Member

    number 7 45 star flag1.jpg
     
  16. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Thank you for the excellent photos, George. The flag is indeed wool bunting, with cotton stars applied to each side of the canton using machine zig zag stitching. The use of zig zag stitching was patented in 1892, and by the 1930's the so-called "Betsy Ross Pattern" of 13 stars in a circle had pretty much superseded the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern of your flag. So that puts the age of this flag in the ca 1910 time frame, give or take a decade or two.

    Connecting this flag with the original steamship "Clermont" is not possible as the flag was made about a century later. However, many old sewn 13 star flags of wool bunting that have been handed down through the years develop a "family history" that goes back to the early years of the republic because people do not realize that until about the World War I era, nearly all small sewn flags had 13 stars - you could not buy a flag of 45-stars or 46-stars unless you wanted a much larger flag, generally in the 4ft by 6 ft size. Smaller flags with the "full" number of stars were almost always printed. Fully sewn flags smaller than 3x5 feet with fewer than 48 stars are quite rare.
    I have a small number of early 13 star flags with the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern. They are among the photos I have posted on flickr.com:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/artimovich/albums/72157621750323370

    Nick
     
  17. George B.

    George B. New Member

    Thanks Nick, I thought that the story may have been mistaken, but you have shed a lot of light on the mystery for me. I am guessing the flag may be in the $200 to $400 range for a collector. I may as well just get it mounted and keep it for the story I can pass down. Thanks again.
     
  18. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    I suppose there's a chance that the flag could have been flown on the replica Clermont at some point -- it sounds like the timing would be about right. However, there's really no way to tell absent other documentation. It's certainly not the flag in the stereographs.

    If I'm not mistaken, it looks like the fly end was originally longer, and has been trimmed and re hemmed. That would be a hint that it was actually flown long enough for the fly to fray.
     

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