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Issue 15 

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FLAGWAVER

 

JOURNAL OF GREAT WATERS ASSOCIATION OF VEXILLOLOGY

May  2003                                                            Vol. VIII,  No. 1, Issue 15

 

SEVENTEEN-STAR FLAG DISPLAYED AT

OHIO'S BICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION 

 

March 1, 2003, marked the 200th anniversary of Ohio's statehood, with parades and celebrations held in Chillicothe, a city due south of Columbus, and the state's first capital. A special feature of the celebration was the display of a seventeen-star flag known as the “Ohio Transitional Flag” that was on view as part of the Sons of the American Revolution Historic Hubb Scott display of state and historic flags at the Trinity United Methodist Church. The flag was discovered some years ago in the attic of the McDowell House in Ashville, Ohio, by the house's current owner, Brian Meyers, while he was inspecting the attic for repairs. The flag was lying in a roof joist, but Meyers, without counting the number of stars, assumed it was and old “Betsy Ross”-type flag with 13 stars in a circle in the canton and an extra, larger star, in the circle's center, which he thought was unusual. Still, regarding the flag as an old curiosity, he simply stored it away in his garage for a time until one day in June, 2001, when he showed it to a local Ohio history buff, Tom Zwayer, who recognized immediately that the flag was historically important, and pointed out that the flag had 16 six-pointed stars in a circle, not 13, so that the extra star in the center made 17. He also noted that the flag appeared to be hand-sewn with some threads of linen, leading him to believe the flag was more than 100 years old. The flag, though soiled, was generally in good condition, so Zwayer built a plexiglas frame for the flag so it could be viewed without touching it. Zwayer then contacted Cliff Eckle of the Ohio Historical Society, who suggested that the flag be professionally examined by Textile Preservation Associates Inc., in Keedysville, Maryland, at a cost about $1000. The Ashville Area Historical Society, agreed to pay for the analysis with the agreement that the flag would be donated to it.

The results of the analysis showed that the flag was created between 1795 and 1815 as a “transitional” flag, i.e., a U.S. flag, but never officially flown at the federal level. Of course, it is unlikely that the flag would have been made much before 1803, when Ohio would have merited a seventeenth star.1 The analysis also showed that the flag had been repaired three times. The original flag measured 29" x 48". Its nearly square canton and the six-pointed stars were a common feature on flags of the period.@ (JP) 

1The flag law of 1795 provided for a star and stripe to be added each time a new state was admitted to the Union. With the addition of a star and stripe for Vermont and Kentucky, it became obvious that soon the flag would become unwieldy in appearance as the nation grew, so from 1795 until 1818 it was unchanged at 15 stars and stripes. Thus, until it was decided in 1818 to add a star for each new state, but revert to the 13 original stripes, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, and Mississippi had no symbolic place on the national flag, even though theoretically it would have been legal to create new flags as they entered statehood. The seventeen-star flag is no doubt an Ohioan's attempt to make such a flag, but the fact that the designer uses only 13 stripes suggests that the flag may have been made closer to 1818 than 1803. 

 


   

In Memoriam 

Glenn Edward Compton 

Former GWAV President and founding member Glenn Compton died November 28, 2002 after a lengthy illness. Though Glenn was an avid vexillologist, his interests didn't stop there. He also had a vast collection of stamps and Uncle Sam memorabilia. Glenn and his wife Lou Ellen welcomed vexillologists from the Midwest into their home in Kettering, Ohio in 1991 to create GWAV.  

Lou Ellen said his interest in flags stemmed from his stamp collection and began in the 1970's. After attending their first NAVA convention in Cleveland, Glenn and Lou Ellen became familiar faces at many GWAV and NAVA meetings. Most NAVA members may remember Glenn portraying Uncle Sam during the opening ceremonies or the opening parade of flags.

Frequently, Glenn was unable to find 4x6 inch flags he wanted for his collection, but this didn't stop him. He'd simply consult designs or photos and create them himself. At first, he tried to sew them but found this too difficult for some of the designs. His solution was to paint them onto white drafting linen. Many GWAV members got their own chance to admire Glenn's artistry when they received a hand-made pin of the GWAV flag from him.

For his regular portrayals of Uncle Sam at events in the Kettering-Dayton area, and other activities, Glenn received the Medal of Honor in 1992 from the Daughters of the American Revolution. One of Glenn's annual appearances was at Dayton's World A'Fair where Uncle Sam would lead the parade.

In addition to Lou Ellen, Glenn leaves two children, one granddaughter and a sister. We extend our condolences to all of Glenn's family. @ (DB)

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