Discussion in 'Flag Identification and Collecting' started by killen1940, Jun 27, 2014.
Does anyone know what happened to Robert Heft's original 50 star flag after his death?
I am pleased to try to help answer the question of what has happened to Bob's 50-star flag after his death.
I was a personal friend of Bob's since his return from Ohio to his birth home of Saginaw, Michigan in 1998. Since Bob was never married, he had few relatives and treated his closest friends as family, too. I had the pleasure of listening to Bob recall his making of the flag several times and never tired of hearing his story.
In 2009, I served as the funeral director for his funeral services. Considering the uniqueness of Bob's story and the historical significance to our country, I have written an article about Bob and his flag based on the information he provided in the speeches he gave around the U.S. and the world. Moreover, I provide details concerning his final speeches in the days before his untimely death.
The article may be seen on my funeral home’s website at
In the News | Wakeman Funeral Home - Saginaw, MI and then scrolling down several articles to the photograph of Bob at “Designer of America's 50-star flag laid to rest” headline.
As for the whereabouts of Bob’s flag since his death, it is being held in safe keeping by a fiduciary here in Saginaw.
I hope this helps.
Wakeman Funeral Home, Inc.
If you are trying to view the link to my article of Bob on a mobile device, find the link to open up the desktop version of the website at the bottom of the page that opens on your device and then go to
the WHAT WE DO page,
then the IN THE NEWS page,
then scroll down several articles to Bob's photograph and article.
I would like to add to Rodney's post, too, that Bob did try to sell the flag on eBay back in 2005, at an asking price of $250,000, but the flag did not sell. Here is a link to a news article about the flag being for sale at that time:
The Bryan Times - Google News Archive Search
It's nice to know that an important piece of our nation's vexillological history is safe in some bean counter's vault.
I'm not sure I understand why Mr. Heft go so much publicity out of his "design" for the 50-star flag. First of all, the 6-5-6-5-6-5-6-5-6 pattern was establised long before Robert entered grade school. Here's a press photo dated 1953 showing this flag:
Mr. Heft's claim that he sewed the "first 50-star flag" in 1958 is clearly bogus - he was 5 years late to do that. Here's the back of the photo to prove that:
Secondly, it was the USArmy Institute of Heraldry that developed the final design drawings of the 50-star flag. When did the Institute of Heraldry make the final decision to go with the 9-row pattern alternating 6 and 5? I don't know, but I seriosly doubt that Robert Heft's input influenced the decision.
To be clear, a fiduciary is someone in a trusted capacity, and in this case is not a "bean counter" or someone in finance, but rather in a trusted legal capacity.
The story even Bob told is that he wasn't the only one who submitted a design in this particular style. Who really knows how many were actually submitted to Washington, DC? Reports at the time suggest "thousands". However, Bob's was the only one outside of the government to submit an actual flag rendering.
Look at it this way, I think President Eisenhower capitalized on some publicity of the event. How many presidents can say they were in office for three different flag designs (48, 49 and 50)? He knew 50 was likely going to be around a while so despite an identical 50-star design already conjured up in a stuffy old office in some corner of the government, he used the back story of a husky high school kid from the Midwest and his US History class project to put a real-life spin and a face on the design for his benefit. Because of this, Bob has been widley recognized and accepted as the designer of the 50-star flag. And for anyone who knew the man and the amount of pride and patriotism he exuded since he first designed his version of the flag on his "mother's" Singer sewing machine and what he went through to get his flag noticed in Washington, DC, no one ever doubted the elements of the making of his flag and the journey he sought for it.
The issue here is that over the course of normal business, to protect one's invention you submit your idea to the US Patent Office. But because the design of the flag cannot be patented, you get these kinds of descrepancies. I don't think anyone is looking to rewrite history. I do think, however, that putting a face on the topic and an actual story behind one young man's work, as President Eisenhower successfully did, adds a great deal to the history of our nation's flag.
It is because of Bob and through his years of travel sharing history through his story and connecting the history of our flag through peronality with countless people, this enabled them to learn far more about our flag than from the reach of any elementary school teacher, public officer or government employee.
That is very interesting. I had not heard that the President referenced Heft's submission as the inspiration for the current flag design. Seems that there were thousands of submissions identical to Heft's, but Bob was the only one to submit an actual flag with that design.
Go up to my original post and click on the link to the article I wrote about Bob. I included several points of the road his flag design took on the way to President Eisenhower calling him at work to invite him to the White House.
Would "pencil pusher" be more accurate?
The caption of the photo says Ms. Gilmore is flanked by an "original" 13 star Betsy Ross flag. It looks to be in pretty good shape to be an "original".
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