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One of the most famous early American flags is the Bennington Flag, which is currently located at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont.  According to the history of the flag as posted on the Bennington Museum website:

  "Acknowledged as the oldest Stars and Stripes, this unusually large flag was said to have flown over General Stark's encampment during the Battle of Bennington. Long thought to have been flown at the Battle of Bennington, this flag was in fact created after 1800. A solid family history in the Fillmore family, related to 13th President of the United States Millard Fillmore, dates the flag to the era of the War of 1812. Fiber analysis performed in 1995 concluded that the flag was constructed of machine-spun cotton, a process that was not possible until 1800 and realistically until 1810. The "76" on this flag was most likely used to commemorate the victory of the American Revolution during the hard years of the War of 1812. The flag presents a unique interpretation of the Stars and Stripes; the flag is related in concept and design to other historical regimental flags where emphasis was placed on the field and arrangement of the stars. The striking "arch" form as well as the unique seven pointed stars may have Masonic significance. The stripes follow the heraldic order frequently used during the Revolutionary period, alternating white and red, instead of the red and white of more recent American flags."  - The Bennington Museum  

There has also been speculation that the flag dates to as late as the American Centennial in 1876, but regardless of the age of the original flag, its pattern and design has become iconic in American culture. The American Bicentennial of 1976 saw the Bennington Flag emerge as a tremendously popular choice for Americans wanting to display a patriotic representation of an early American flag.  This example in the Rare Flags collection is extremely special and scarce.  Whereas most examples from the American Bicentennial were mass produced and manufactured, this flag is homemade and entirely hand sewn.  At nearly 8 feet long, it is a masterpiece of workmanship.  The stars of the flag, which are large and bold on the canton, are single-appliqué, meaning that the maker cut the shape of the stars through the canton and then used a single piece of white fabric for the star itself.  This method of creating the stars on our flags was prevalent in the early 19th century, but by the 20th century it had become a lost art.  To see this construction on a flag made toward the end of the 20th century is remarkable. The sleeve hoist shows evidence that the flag was flown, though its excellent condition indicates that it was only used briefly, perhaps just at the time of the Bicentennial Celebration.  The stylized "76", which is also of single-appliqué workmanship, has a charming, folky 1970's era flare to its font. The seamstress used blue thread when stitching the stars and 76 on the canton to hide the stitches against the blue background.  True to the style of the original Bennington Flag, the stars of the flag are seven-pointed, the flag starts and ends on white stripes rather than red, the canton extends through nine vertical stripes, and sits on a red stripe. The flag has a companion, a beautiful Continental Colors, IAS-00332, which was made at the same time and likely by the same hand.  Of the thousands of late 20th century and 21st century examples of the Bennington flag which are continually offered for sale in the marketplace, this is the only pieced-and-sewn homemade example of the type that I've ever encountered.  It is a modern masterpiece of American flag-making and a treasure of the Rare Flags collection.

After acquiring this flag along with IAS-00332 in 2012, a flag collector sent a note in 2019 regarding a 2017 obituary in the Washington Post for artist Virginia W. Ames, who passed away on March 3, 2017 at the age of 102 years old.

  "Virginia W. Ames, a founding member of the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Va., and creator of an oversize set of Revolutionary War-era flags for display at the Library of Congress during the Bicentennial, died March 3 at her home in Tucson. She was 102. In 1974, she was commissioned by the Library of Congress to prepare a Bicentennial exhibition of Revolutionary War flags and for the next two years
researched and then hand-sewed 12 flags under which American units fought against the British. Most were militia flags: the Rhode Island regimental flag, a Bunker Hill flag, the flag of the 3rd New York regiment and the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag with a representation of a serpent." - The Washington Post, April 12, 2017

Pictured in the Washington Post article is a photo if Mrs. Ames with this Bennington Flag, providing clear attribution of the flag's history as one of the twelve commissioned for the Library of Congress Bicentennial Exhibition.

Virginia Ames, right, and Kathryn Sanborn, wife of Library of Congress exhibits director Herbert J. Sanborn, display Mrs. Ames's reproduction of the Bennington Flag, one of a dozen commissioned for the Bicentennial exhibition. (Herbert J. Sanborn)

Click here to learn more about 13 Star American Flags. Star Count:  13 Stars

Dates:  1976

War Era:  None

Statehood:  Original 13 Colonies (Commemorative)

Construction:  Cotton with Cotton Stars

Catalog Number:  IAS-00331


1944 Liberation Flag
48 Six-Pointed Stars on Silk

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