Fifteen-star flag

Family Programs during February Vacation

We have some engaging family programming coming up during February vacation. Get out your calendar - we hope to see you at the Museum!

Game of the StatesBring family and friends to see how fascinating maps can be in our next school vacation family program. “Mapping Our World” will be held Wednesday, February 19 from 2:00-3:30 pm. Start with an exploration of the “Journeys and Discoveries: The Stories Maps Tell” gallery and see how maps are made and what they tell us. Then, participants will work together on some hands-on mapping activities. Get ready for something different – you may be surprised at what maps can do!

The program is appropriate for ages 8 through adult. This approximately 1.5 hour program wil cost $6/family (members); $9/family (non-members). No registration is necessary.

Don’t forget this annual favorite! NTRAK Model Train Show on Saturday, Feb. 15 (10 AM – 4:30 PM) and Sunday, Feb. 16 (Noon – 4 PM). Admission: $5/individual; $5/family (members of either organization); $7/family (non-members). See our previous post for more information.

Since spring is just around the corner (though it may seem hard to believe at the moment), we'd like to let you know about the two family programs we have planned for April vacation:

Get to Know Our Flag on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 1:00 PM & 2:30 PM

This family program explores the origins, history, legends and myths of the American flag. With the Museum’s historically significant 15-star flag as a backdrop, participants will enjoy hands-on activities. Bring family and friends to discover some surprising April flag history. $5/family (members); $7/family (non-members). No registration necessary for this approximately one-hour program.

The Lexington Alarm on Thursday, April 24, 2014, 2 PM

Each year at this time, the Museum displays an exciting piece of American history, the Lexington Alarm Letter. Written on April 19, 1775 by a citizen of Watertown to notify the American colonies near and far that war had begun, the letter still conveys the urgency of the shocking news. Families are invited to work together on hands-on, minds-on activities that explore the moment and the world in which this document was set down. Appropriate for ages 8 through adult. $6/family (members); $9/family (non-members). No registration necessary for this approximately 1.5 hour program.

Photo credit:

Game of the States, ca. 1960.  Manufactured by the Milton Bradley Company, Springfield, Massachusetts. Gift of Mrs. John Willey, 2006.026.2. Photograph by David Bohl.


Programs for Students - Come Explore History!

Group Programs for Students 13_08_p2'Colonial Kids' fits very well with the social studies curriculum. The kids liked it a lot. They had never seen a 'horn book' before nor a 'block' of tea. The program brought to life what we studied for months.

3rd grade teacher, Lexington, MA

As summer segues into autumn, teachers are preparing for the classroom. To  support educators in their wish to enrich classroom learning with engaging history field trips, we offer three fantastic, hands-on programs that bring history to life. Each offers a through grounding in solid historical research and interactive structure. All programs are aligned to the Massachusetts Department of Education's history and social science curriculum framework. We also enjoy working with groups from independent schools, homeschool groups, and scouts. Our programs are conducted by professional staff, who know how to engage and inspire students through developmentally appropriate interpretive techniques.

Colonial Kids allows participants to explore how the children of Lexington's Brown family experienced daily life in 1773. Visiting third-graders discover that Lexington's residents had their own "tea party," days before the famous Boston Tea Party of December, 1773. They engage in critical thinking about what the concept of "protest" meant to families of the era, as well as considering how aspects of daily life - clothing, dairy production, and schooling - in the 1770s compare to their own. Kindergartners through second-graders participating in the program explore the everyday life of the Brown family, real people who lived in Lexington at the time of the American Revolution. From how they helped in the house and on the farm to what school was like, the Brown children are brought to life through an engaging narrative and plenty of objects to handle and consider. You can read about the third-grade version of the Colonial Kids program here. Here is more information about the Lexington tea-burning protest - and here, as well.

The Archeology Lab helps 4th- to 8th-graders walk in the footsteps of archeologists who study New England's colonial past. Participants clean, identify, and interpret artifacts from a fictitious Massachusetts town, discovering archeological methods as they work. Students work together to assemble clues about how the artifacts were used in the 1700s and about the people who left them behind. We have posted supplementary material to our archeology program here.

From Union Jack to Old Glory is a flexible program that introduces first through fifth-graders to the history and meaning of the Stars and Stripes. Featuring the Museum's rare and enormous 15-star flag as its centerpiece, the program employs a variety of hands-on activities, games, and challenges. Participants consider how we handle and display our national flag, as well as discover the fascinating course the development of its physical appearance and use has taken since the first years of the American Revolution to the present.

We appreciate your willingness to meet our needs. You are wonderful!

5th grade teacher, Newton, MA

We are glad to accommodare a visiting group's interests and needs. To learn more about the programs described here, our fees for student groups, and how to inquire about booking a program, refer to our Groups and Tours webpage. We are always happy to share information about these programs - drop us a line at groups@monh.org or call at 781-457-4121.

Our monthly newsletter will help keep you in touch with programs, exhibitions, and special events. You can sign up to receive it by clicking on the "Join Our E-Mailing List" icon at the museum's website.

 


Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend, Nov. 5 at the Museum

BetsyRoss_LoC_croppedCould Betsy Ross have changed history with a snip of a pair of scissors in the year 1776? Did that snip convince George Washington, the nation’s future first president, that five-pointed stars suited better than six? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Join us for the lecture, “Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend,” on Saturday, November 5 at 2 pm to delve into the full life story this enduring American legend. Historian Marla R. Miller shares Ross as she truly was, piecing together the fascinating life of this beloved figure. Ross is thought to be important to our history above all for her role as a skilled needlewoman. She was one of Philadelphia's most important flag makers from the Revolution through the War of 1812. Little known, however, is that she was fiercely on the side of the colonial resistance, reveled in its triumphs, and suffered consequences as a result.

Miller’s recent publication, Betsy Ross and the Making of America, will be available for purchase and signing following the talk.

The lecture is free. It is made possible by Ruby W. Linn, and is the concluding lecture in a series celebrating the National Heritage Museum’s treasured 15-star flag. Made between 1794 and 1818, the flag will be available for viewing on the day of the lecture in the Museum’s Farr Conference Room.

Headshot in snowMarla R. Miller is an historian of early American women and work, and has made a career uncovering the lives of women who left little in the way of a documentary record. She is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and directs the Public History program there. She has won the Organization of American Historians’ Lerner-Scott Prize for the best dissertation in Women’s History and the 1998 Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Colonial History.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861‑6559 or visit our web site.

Photo credits:

Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag, c. 1908. Library of Congress.

Marla Miller. Courtesy of Marla Miller.


Richard Hatcher to Speak on "The Flags of Fort Sumter," Sept. 17

Fosu1861_1 Fort Sumter, the scene of the first shots exhanged in the U.S. Civil War, still has vital significance for how Americans define themselves today. In April of 1861, South Carolina had seceeded from the United States, while Fort Sumter remained a bastion of Federal military authority in Charleston's harbor. An immense 34-star United States flag flew over the garrison. After Union forces were bombarded into surrendering the fort to Confederate troops, its new occupants replaced the garrison flag with not only the Confederate colors, but the palmetto flag of the new Republic of South Carolina.

Hatcher Richard W. Hatcher III, as the National Park Service's historian at the Fort Sumter National Monument, is entrusted with helping present generations better understand the site and its role in our national history. Moreover, he knows the symbolic power of these two flags, now part of the site's curatorial collection. Hatcher will share his knowledge with us at the Museum on Saturday, September 17 at 2 PM in a talk entitled, "The Flags of Fort Sumter: National Symbolism in the Civil War." He will offer insight into what new flags such as the palmetto meant to secessionists and how American flags that formerly signified national unity now became divisive. Join us for a lively illustrated talk that traces the history of the Civil War-era flags in the Fort Sumter collection.

This lecture is part of a series that celebrates the National Heritage Museum’s own treasured 15-star flag and explores the changing history of the American flag. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Ruby W. Linn, the lecture is free to the public. For more information about this public program, visit our website or call the Museum during business hours at 781-862-6559.

Flag-raising Fort Sumter 1865 Richard Hatcher has had a deep and rich career as an historian with the National Park Service. Since 1992, he has served at Fort Sumter - Fort Moultrie National Monument. As site historian, he has played a leading role in reframing of how the Park Service interprets Fort Sumter to the visiting public. Over the past two decades, Hatcher and site staff have developed an engaging and inclusive story that does not shy away from some of the knottier dilemmas of the causes of the Civil War. Hatcher is the author of numerous Civil War-related books and articles.He is also a National Civil War Museum Advisory Council member and a regular speaker at Civil War Roundtables.

Photo credits:

Palmetto Guard Flag, 1861, courtesy of the Fort Sumter National Monument collections.

Courtesy of Richard W. Hatcher III.

Flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina, 1865. Library of Congress.

 


American Flag Lecture Series Starts at the Museum

95_021T1-1 The American flag what symbol is more visible, more a part of our daily lives? Flags of all sizes flutter above us in the breeze, images of the flag adorn signs of all kinds and even appear on commercial products, and flags hang solemnly in our public buildings. How often do we stop to think about what the American flag means to us? Have we ever noticed that its personal meaning may change throughout the course of our lives?

If we started to list all the changes the twentieth century brought to America, we might still be scribbling hours later. If our nation has undergone immeasurable change over the last century, what impact has that had on our understanding of that ultimate national symbol, the American flag? Scot Guenter, professor of American Studies at San Jose State University, will guide us on an exploration of just that question. He will join us on Saturday, May 14, at 2 PM, to speak about "Contested Meanings of the Twentieth-Century Flag: Sacred Symbol, Symbolic Speech." His talk will explore how the increasing civic use of our flag during the first half of the 1900s contrasted with Americans’ varying interpretations of the flag during the century’s later decades. In other words, he will tell the story of how our flag gained symbolic power and its meaning became a bone of contention among Americans engaging in the great public debates of the twentieth century.

InasuitWeb Professor Guenter comes to us with a deep understanding of American culture and its symbols. He has taught a dizzying array of topics in twentieth-century American history. As if this weren't enough, he is also one of the world's leading vexillologists. His expertise in the study of flags has earned him two of the highest awards in the field and his consulting services have been called upon by the Smithsonian Institution. We sincerely hope that you will join us in welcoming Professor Guenter for what promises to be a fascinating and engaging afternoon. This free public lecture, sponsored by Ruby W. Linn, is part of new series celebrating the National Heritage Museum’s treasured 15-star flag.

Please call the Museum at 781-861-6559 if you have questions about this public program. For families with children who would like to learn more about our flag, please consider joining us on the afternoon of Saturday, June 11 for an opportunity to "Get to Know Our Flag." For school and Scout groups, the Museum also offers an educational flag program, "From Union Jack to Old Glory."

Image credits:

15-Star Flag, 1794-1818. National Heritage Museum, gift of John E. Craver, 95.021. Photo by David Bohl.

Photo courtesy of Scot Guenter.


A National Treasure

95_021T1 One of the National Heritage Museum’s treasures – and a perennial favorite with our visitors – is the large 15-star American flag that proudly hangs in our Farr Conference Center. 

Donated in 1995 by John E. Craver, the flag had been passed down in his family for generations.  Makers sewed this flag, which measures approximately 11 feet by 12 ¾ feet, to fly over a military fort (or garrison) or on a vessel, marking them as U.S. property.  Unfortunately, we do not know who made it or where it originally flew.

The flag is made of wool bunting, a lightweight, mildew-resistant, coarsely woven fabric.  The blue section, called a canton, is colored with indigo.  This dye, common during the late 1700s and early 1800s, provided a deep, permanent color that rarely faded.  The red stripes are dyed with an unknown colorant and the white stars are made out of linen.

In 1996 and 1997, conservators worked 500 hours to stabilize the flag and prepare it for display.  After it was gently cleaned and stabilized, a supportive backing was attached.  A slightly angled back board further supports the flag in its specially constructed case, and low lighting helps to preserve it for generations to come.

The 15-star flag was the official U.S. design from 1794, when President George Washington (1732-1799) signed the Second Flag Act, until 1818, when legislators adopted the 20-star flag, adding one star for each state that joined the union since 1794.  The 1794 Second Flag Act mandated 15 stars and 15 stripes – one for each state then in the union – but did not specify design details, such as the arrangement of the stars.  You may notice that the Museum’s flag has only 14 stripes.  One was removed before we received it, probably due to deterioration, or possibly by a souvenir seeker.

The National Heritage Museum’s 15-star flag is one of only a handful still in existence known to have been made between 1794 and 1818.  The most famous 15-star flag is the Star-Spangled Banner, which flew over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  The survival of that flag during the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) to write the words to what is now the American national anthem.  The Star-Spangled Banner was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1912.  That flag recently underwent a $7 million conservation project to better preserve it in the decades to come.

The National Heritage Museum holds over fifty flags in its collection.  Most are American flags of varying sizes with anywhere from 13 to 50 stars.  In addition, the Museum’s collection includes Masonic and fraternal flags, as well as a few state flags.

15-star American flag, 1794-1818.  Gift of John E. Craver, 95.021.  Photograph by David Bohl.