Rare US Flag Preservation Underway at Museum Textile Services in Andover
ANDOVER – A studio in the Merrimack Valley is working on a rare 19-star flag that once flew on the USS Constitution, the first American battleship known as “Old Ironsides”. The Museum Textile Services is currently preserving the unique item which was given to former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot in 2010 as a birthday present. The flag is not available for viewing by the public.
“American history is preserved and venerated through its national symbols. What greater symbol can there be than an American flag that flew over the U.S.S. Constitution nearly 200 years ago?” said Ross Perot Jr. “We are proud to be the stewards of this great flag, to help preserve it and to share the meaning of its history for generations to come.”
The goal is to improve the flag’s preservation level by removing pollutants, stabilize with hand-stitched repairs, correct distortions, and realign it. The remaining conservation work is scheduled to be completed onsite during its installation in a long-term display at the Perot Companies headquarters in Texas.
“It is a great historical coincidence that this particular flag is being worked on in the Boston area while the USS Constitution is presently in dry dock for maintenance and repair at the Charlestown Navy Yard,” notes Camille Breeze, Director and Chief Conservator of Museum Textiles Services.
- Museum Textile Services staff conserve an ensign flag belonging to the Dennis, MA Historical
Commission. Photo courtesy of Museum Textile Services.
The flag is from a group connected to the Constitution that remained in the same collection for 150 years before the Perot purchase. It was part of the collection owned by philanthropist and collector of early American decorative and fine arts H. Richard Dietrich Jr. It was sold by Freeman’s auction house in April 2012 when it was purchased by Ross Perot, Jr. The flag was displayed in the former Perot Systems headquarters in Plano, Texas until it was removed for conservation.
Time has taken its toll on the nearly 200 year-old flag, but it remains in “remarkably good condition”. It measures 16’8′ wide by 10’6″ high and has 9 stripes. The hoist is missing, there is discoloration, patches added, and a number of scattered holes or tears.
The flag and its number of stars places its origin to circa 1816. This style flag was only authorized for one-year of use. Congress passed the Third Flag Act of 1818, and the new law instituted the use of 13 stripes and one star for each state. They would be added to the flag on the fourth of July following the admission of a new state to the Union. The order of the stars and the flag’s proportions were finally unified by Executive Order on June 24, 1912.
For more information, visit www.museumtextiles.com or call (978) 474-9200. The flag is not available for viewing by the public.
About Museum Textile Services
Museum Textile Services is one of just a handful of independent conservation studios that specialize in preserving textiles that are under the care of private individuals, cultural heritage institutions, and government agencies. It documents, cleans, stabilizes and mounts historic textiles. Through educational programs and outreach initiatives, Museum Textile Services teaches individuals and cultural heritage institutions how to ensure better preservation of their textiles.
For more information, visit www.museumtextiles.com.