This flag is special in
many ways. The flag is accompanied by a note that
provides a wonderful family history and a geographic
context that elevates the flag's importance and makes it
a special example of how Americans cherished and
maintained their personal flags over many years.
The note accompanying the flag reads:
"Mrs. Mary Dale used
this flag on public occasions over their hotel in
Virginia City in the "good old days" of 60's and 70's.
Her family moved to Sebastopol about 1890, buying the
Calender place, now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Leland."
The discovery of the
Comstock Lode in 1859 launched the boomtown of Virginia
City, Nevada, which in its heyday boasted a population
of over 30,000 residents. It was precisely at this
time, during the "good old days" of the 60's and 70's",
that Mary Dale acquired this wonderful 37 star flag and
flew it over her hotel.
Based on the history
accompanying the flag, the Dale family moved to
Sebastopol, California, at a time when the boom of the
mines began to wane.
By the time major mining
of the Comstock Lode came to an end in 1898, the
precipitous drop in silver production led to a sharp
decline in the town's population. Today Virginia
City remains a tourist destination with a population of
just 1,000 residents. That the Dales cared deeply for
the flag is evident. The flag is carefully patched
and repaired, and a total of 9 folky, fat starfish-like
stars were added to the flag, extending the flag's count
to 46. Four of the original stars which presumably
were damaged were also carefully replaced. What's
particularly interesting is that of the many flags that
I've seen with a "notched" configuration, where the
maker intentionally leaves space for additional stars,
this is the only flag I can recall where stars were
actually added, as intended. In a charming display
of frugality and handiwork, Mary actually filled the
notched space and then continued to add stars by tucking
them in above the top row.
Sewn 37 star flags are
particularly scarce, compared to earlier Civil War flags
of 34-36 stars and later Centennial flags of 38 stars.
The Dale Family Flag's specific history which ties it to
a place and time of special historical interest in the
American West and the wonderful updates and repairs to
the flag combine to make a rare and beautiful example of
post-Civil War flagmaking in the late 19th century.
This photograph shows Virginia City, Nevada
circa 1867-1868, at the time when the Dale
Family Flag first became official. The
citation along with the flag, indicating that
the flag was flown in the "60's and 70's", a
good indication that the Dales acquired the flag
early in the time period of the 37 star flag
(1867-1877). Quite possibly the flag was flying
over their hotel when this photo was taken.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons, National Archives)
Virginia City, Nevada, circa 2009. Despite
several fires, some historic buildings from the
boomtown period still stand in the city.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons, Vivaverdi)