unusual size 5x4 ft? (48 stars)

Discussion in 'Flag Identification and Collecting' started by american_flag_uk, Feb 28, 2007.

  1. heh im really stumped on this one and could do with a bit of help on it!!

    i bought this flag on ebay it just came today and ive discovered its odd size! 5x4 ft....

    the ebay sellers description said::
    Original WWI or WWII Flag. Double-sided heavy cotton/linen with 48 embroidered stars. Gold fringe bordering, old-style square flag design rather than rectangular. Has some mothing, but still displays great. This flag was recovered from an old VFW hall in Illinois, so it is a genuine military flag and likely had a special use at one time.

    now my 1st question is: what is a VFW hall?? (sorry im from england lol)

    the 2nd is.... the flag.... why is it such an odd size? is there any significance in its size?? why would a flag have been made to be this size rather than for example 5x3?


    what do you think??
  2. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin


    I can only give a partial answer to your questions, but here goes!

    First the easy one. VFW stands for "Veterans of Foreign Wars," a large association of US military veterans that was founded around 1900. Their web site is at Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The VFW has local posts all over the country, which provide services and social activities for members.

    Now, about the unusual proportions of your flag. To explain this one we need to go back a bit into history. In the 19th century, the US military used two distinctly different versions of the stars and stripes. For clarity, I'll refer to them as "ensigns" and "colors." (In fact, those two terms tend to get mixed up, but I'll use them here to keep things straight).

    Ensigns were flown on Navy ships and also on the flagpoles on Army forts and bases. Ensigns were typically made of bunting (wool, originally), and were designed to be hoisted on halyards and displayed outdoors for prolonged periods.

    Colors were carried by Army regiments in battle and on parade. The colors were typically silk, with a gold fringe, and were made with a sleeve for carrying on a staff. Colors were not designed for continuous use -- they were usually kept "cased" (rolled up and covered by a case) except when the regiment was in battle or on parade. At some periods, such as during the Civil War, colors had the name of the regiment and/or names of the battles in which the regiment had fought lettered across the stripes.

    The key to this story is that ensigns and colors had different proportions. Ensigns were typically quite oblong, sometimes as much as 1:2. (In the early years, it was common to make the ensign extra long, so that the fly edge could be cut back and resewn when it frayed.) Colors, on the other hand, were much closer to being square. The 1904 Army regulations specified that colors were to be "5 feet 6 inches fly, 4 feet 4 inches on the pike [staff]."

    In 1912, when the 47th and 48th stars were added to the flag, the Army and Navy set up a joint Board to standardize flags used by both services. The Board basically adopted the Navy's version, which was logical because the use of colors on the battlefield was becoming obsolete. The results of the committee's work were promulgated in an executive order by President Taft in June 1912. It specified that the proportions of the flag were to be 10:19, which is still the official ratio today.

    So -- it appears that your flag has the proportions of an old Army color. From your photos, I don't think that it actually dates back to 1912, because its condition is too good. (I could be wrong -- I'm definitely not an expert on things like that!)

    Does your flag have any identifying marks that might hint at when it was made, or where?

    I hope this helps . . .

    Peter Ansoff
  3. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hi, again!

    After sending my last post, I realized that I might have accidentally caused some confusion. The Army did not stop using flags with the colors proportions after 1912. They *still* use "squarish" flags for display indoors. Current Army regulations specify two sizes of indoor flags: 4 ft. 4 in. by 5 ft. 6 in., and 3 ft. by 4 ft. Your flag sounds like it's close to the larger size. The current regulation says that the flag "will be of rayon banner cloth or heavyweight nylon, trimmed on three sides with golden yellow fringe, 2 1/2 inches wide." What you have appears to be a typical Army-style flag intended for indoor display.

    Peter Ansoff
  4. that flag is exactly those measurments 4ft 4in x 5 ft 6in i thought to keep it simple by not mentioning those extras! there is no identification on it whatsoever.

    so im assuming the squarer size will look better from a standing pole than a more rectangluar flag.... only one way to find out! ill take my indoor pole outside and try it out with that flag (indoors i have to shorten the pole cos ceiilng is lower than 8 ft tall)

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