Flags

World War I - Home Service Banners

Aimee2011_025DI1

This year (2014) marks the one hundredth anniversary of the conflict that would become known as the "Great War," and, later, World War I.  Although the United States did not get drawn into the conflict until 1917, the start of the war was not ignored on these shores.  While the war had been brewing for some time, the immediate cause is widely acknowledged to be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914) of Austria in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, on June 28, 1914.  A month later, on July 28, Austria-Hungary fired the first shots in preparation for an invasion of Serbia.  Lines were quickly drawn along what would become the Western front between Germany and France, and the Eastern Front between Russia and Austria-Hungary.  Shortly after the first shots were fired in 1914, Britain declared war on Germany.  Italy and Bulgaria joined the war in 1915 and Romania in 1916.  In April 1917, the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies (Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Russia, prior to its surrender).  With the entrance of the United States, the Allies were able to surge forward and eventually win the war.  Germany agreed to an armistice on November 11, 1918.  More than nine million combatants lost their lives; Germany and Russia lost territory; the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were dismantled; the map of Europe was redrawn; and the League of Nations formed to prevent a future conflict.  Sadly, the League would fail just twenty years later when World War II began. 

Almost five million Americans served in the war, more than four million of these in the Army.  Although the front was far away from the United States, the war effort was foremost in the minds of many at home.  Families with a man serving overseas often hung a “Home Service Banner” in a window.  These banners, with a red border around a white center and a star to represent the serviceman, became a display of patriotism during World War I.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection includes one of these banners, but unfortunately we do not know who originally owned it (at right).  It has one star, which signified one family member fighting in the conflict.  A blue star signified hope and pride; a silver star indicated that the soldier had been wounded; and a gold star represented sacrifice, indicating that the soldier died in battle.  If the family had more than one soldier overseas, the banner would show multiple stars.  The first home service flag was designed and patented in 1917 by Robert Queissner of Ohio, who had two sons on the front lines. 78_36DI1

Recently, the Museum & Library was given a similar flag, but with twenty-three stars (twenty-two blue and one cream-colored star) around a blue square and compasses symbol (see above).  This flag shows the same red border and white center as a home service flag.  The flag was found at Old Colony Lodge in Hingham, Massachusetts.  The lodge did not have any information on the flag, but it may have indicated that twenty-three members of the lodge were serving in World War I or World War II (these flags were also used during that conflict), and that one man was wounded or killed.  We hope that pursuing additional research into the lodge’s records may answer the question of when the flag was used and confirm this theory about its significance.  Does your family own a home service banner?  Let us know in a comment below!

Masonic Flag, 1910-1920, United States, gift of Old Colony Lodge, Hingham, Massachusetts, 2011.025.

Home Service Banner, 1917-1919, United States, gift of Henry S. Kuhn, 78.36.
 


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.


Three Civil War Lectures Now Available Online!

Tony Horwitz 3-12 012We've come to the end of our two-year lecture series marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Through the generous support of Ruby W. Linn and the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation, we were able to mount nine fantastic talks by scholars of the Civil War. Our speakers brought us closer to wartime experience and the meaning people drew from it, as well as the larger context of the war in 19th-century America. In 2012 and 2103, hundreds of people came to see them. To see who the speakers were, click here for our posts about the talks - and be sure not to miss the second page!

If you were unable to attend these lectures, or you'd like to relive them, we can help. Here are recordings of the three fall 2013 Civil War lectures, given by scholars at the forefront of their research fields. The topics are diverse and represent different perspectives on the military and Copperhead Party_LOC_croppedsocial conflicts the United States struggled through, so one of them is likely to strike your fancy. Each video is about 50 minutes long.

Nicole Etcheson (Ball State University), The Anti-Civil War Movement in the North: Copperheads in a Midwestern Community, 1861-1865

LMAIllustrationJane Schultz (Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis), A Season with the Army: Civil War Nurse Harriet Eaton and New England's Role in Medical Relief Work 

Robert Weible (Chief Curator of the New York State Museum and New York State Historian), Not that this is Going to Be a Real War: The Civil War, the Marshall House Flag, and Elmer Ellsworth’s Martyrdom. This segment integrates a special treat - a piece on the conservation of the Marshall House Flag, a huge Confederate banner captured by Ellsworth Envelope_croppedthe first Union officer to fall in the Civil War. The video comes courtesy of New York State Military Museum

To read more about the talks, you can refer to our blog posts about the Etcheson, Schultz, and Weible presentations. We thank our friends at Lexington's community access station, LexMedia, for recording, editing, and posting all three talks.

Stay tuned for the next Museum lecture series, coming in spring 2014. Check our programs page for a preview.

Image credits:

Tony Horwitz speaking before a crowd of over 300 at the Maxwell Auditorium, March 2012.

The copperhead party - in favor of a vigorous prosecution of peace! Illus. in: Harper's weekly, February 28, 1863. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-132749.

Frontispiece illustration for: Louisa M. Alcott. Hospital Sketches and Camp and Fireside Stories. Boston: Roberts Bros., 1869. 

E.E. Ellsworth, late colonel of N.Y Fire Zouaves, c. 1861. E. & H.T. Anthony, New York. LC-DIG-ppmsca-08357.  Library of Congress.


Lecture: A Civil War Cause Celebre - The Union's First Martyr and a Confederate Flag, 11/9

Ellsworth Envelope_croppedJoin us on Saturday, November 9, at 2 PM for the last lecture in our two-year series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Robert Weible, Chief Curator of the New York State Museum and New York State Historian will explore a key event at the beginning of the war between the states, the death of Union officer Elmer Ellsworth. Weible's talk, entitled 'Not that this is Going to Be Real War': The Civil War, the Marshall House Flag, and Elmer Ellsworth's Martrydom, will trace the meaning of this gripping event for contemporaries on both sides of the Mason-Dixson line.

Ellsworth was killed by a seccessionist Virginian in a face-to-face confrontation over whether an outsized Confederate national flag would continue to fly over the city of Alexandria. Supporters of both the Northern and the Southern causes saw trenchant symbolism in this event, which was framed as a martyrdom in Northern newspapers and popular magazines. Weible will also speak on the story of the massive, 14- by 24-foot flag itself, now held by the New York State Military Museum and exhibited at the New York State Museum in conjunction with its current Civil War exhibition. The talk is free, thanks to the generous support of the Ruby W. Linn and LaVonn P. Linn Foundation

On April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter, located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The fort was occupied by Federal troops, asserting Union presence and authority in South Carolina, which was one of the first seven states to have seceeded from the Union. Decades of growing strife between northern and southern states now erupted in civil war. Only a few weeks later, Union troops streamed into Northern Virginia, among them Colonel Elmer Ellsworth and his 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as the First Fire Zouaves.

MarshallHouseEllsworth met his fate just after his twenty-fourth birthday in the Virginian city of Alexandria, at the Marshall House Hotel. This building had a particularly long flagpole, and on it flew the Confederate colors - which could be seen from the White House in Washington, D.C. Ellsworth took a small party of soldiers on a mission to cut down the offending flag. The Marshall House innkeeper, James Jackson, was not about to let the extremely large "stars and bars" seccessionist flag be destroyed. The dramatic confrontation that ensued resulted in Ellsworth's death at Jackson's hand. The first Union officer killed in the war between the states became a martyr for the federal cause and an arch-villain in Confederate eyes. Newspapers and popular magazines on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line proclaimed to their readers the significance of the Marshall House flag and the death of Ellsworth.

Robert Weible is a well-known public historian and former president of the National Council for Public History who has held key positions in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. He is familiar to many in the Boston area as the first historian at Lowell National Historical Park. He has also served as Director of Public History for the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Acting Director of the Pennsylvania State Archives, and Chief of the Division of History for the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Educators and scholars will know him as a former grants director for Teaching American History and National Endowment for the Humanities.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559. www.monh.org.

Image credits:

E.E. Ellsworth, late colonel of N.Y Fire Zouaves, c. 1861. E. & H.T. Anthony, New York. LC-DIG-ppmsca-08357. Library of Congress.

[Alexandria, Va. The Marshall House, King and Pitt Streets], [Between 1860 and 1865]. LC-B8171-2294. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

 

 

 

 


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.


PURPLE, White and Blue?

76_35aDI7 One of the eye-catching objects in the exhibition, The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry, and the Architecture of Washington, D.C., is also quite unusual.  The large, 38-star American flag has a standard blue canton, white stars, and white stripes - but it also shows purple stripes.  The flag measures approximately 68 by 118 inches.

The 38th state, Colorado, was added to the Union on August 1, 1876, but the 38-star flag did not become official until 1877.  It was employed until 1889 when North and South Dakota became the 39th and 40th states.

According to the flag’s donors, it was used by Samuel C. Carter (1853-1919) and his son, Samuel C. Carter Jr. (1888-1957), in ritual work at Franklin Lodge No. 216 in New York City.  This may explain the flag’s purple stripes, since purple is an important symbolic color in Freemasonry.

Samuel C. Carter was born in 1853 and joined Harlem Lodge No. 457 in 1894.  Five years later, in 1899, he affiliated his membership with Franklin Lodge No. 216, which had recently changed its location to Washington Heights.  According to the U.S. Census for 1900, Carter worked as a banknote engraver.  He lived in Manhattan in 1900 with three sons, Robert, William and Samuel Jr., and one daughter, Grace.  In 1910, Carter served as Master of Franklin Lodge, although if he used the flag during this term, it would have been outdated because of the number of stars.

According to Henry W. Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, many Grand Lodges authorized lodges “to make formal introduction and presentation of the National Colors at each meeting,” after World War I.  While Samuel C. Carter died on January 30, 1919, shortly after the end of the war, his son, Samuel Jr., was raised a Master Mason after his father’s death on March 24, 1919.  Perhaps he used the flag in his lodge to honor his father. 

In 1976, soon after the National Heritage Museum opened, two of Samuel C. Carter’s granddaughters generously donated the flag.

Do you know of other examples of American flags with Masonic symbols or colors?  Do you know anything more about the Masonic careers of Samuel Carter Sr. and Jr.?  We would love to hear from you!

The Initiated Eye will be on view through January 9, 2011.  The paintings in the exhibition are the work of Peter Waddell, and were commissioned by, and are the property of, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C., with all rights reserved.  This exhibition is supported by the Scottish Rite Masons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A.

We thank Thomas M. Savini, Director of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York for sharing membership records about the Carters and lodge history on Franklin Lodge No. 216.

38-star American Flag, 1877-1889, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Dorothy T. Clark and Grace B. Curry, 76.35a.


Elizabeth Cole Sheehan, Creator of the Prayer-Rag-Flag Honoring the American Soldier, at the Museum on Veterans Day, November 11

Rag_Flag_CloseUp Elizabeth Cole Sheehan, creator of the Prayer-Rag-Flag honoring the American soldier, will be at the Museum on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11, from 1-4 pm. She will discuss her inspiration for the project, its construction, and answer visitor questions. Through the Prayer-Rag-Flag, Sheehan seeks express hope for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to honor the fallen. She was inspired by Japanese prayer rags and Tibetan prayer flags. Both of these traditions involve tying fabric outdoors, allowing the prayers they hold to go out into the world on the wind.

In honor of Veterans Day, and to commemorate the 5,189 soldiers whose names appear on the flag today, Museum is displaying the Prayer-Rag-Flag in its lobby throughout the month of November.

Photo by Larry Cotton.