Was there a 45 star US Flag? We bought one anyway!
Updated: Aug 28
After a very uneventful week in Brimfield Massachusetts, we just happened to be here at the same time the Worlds oldest and largest Antique fair in the USA was happening. Our RV park was has been full of people coming and going throughout the week spending a day or two here only to visit this infamous antiques fair.
We laid low for the week, catching up on work and editing videos, but thought it would be rude not to go and check out the fair. We had no intention of buying anything, but we do enjoy finding quirky and interesting things at things like this.
One of the things that we love to hate about RVing is that with such limited space and weight capacity, we have no choice but to refrain from buying.....well....any useless crap. Lets be honest, most of us love and appreciate quirky and interesting things, especially antiques, but most of the time, they are completely useless and essentially pointless. We treat places like this like we did during a weekend in Amsterdam; You can look, but not touch.....or buy.
Natalie has a small collection of Doberman figurines and artefacts, so we made that our fun little mission for the day... find something Doberman related.
As we arrived at the fair, it is free to get in, but parking is $10 per vehicle. We also got there late as we like a little tipple or two of our favorite alcoholic beverage on a Friday night. That means that the early birds had been and gone and we got parking right at the entrance.
The fair has over 20 individually owned show fields, so we knew we were going to get our steps in. We strolled up the first aisle of dealers. Immediately, something caught my eye in the third tent we walked past. I slowly veered off into the tent to inspect. It was an antique looking framed US flag. I saw the price of $475 and walked back out.
We spent another couple hours walking around the fields and dealers looking for Doberman things. No luck anywhere! We decided to take out a loan so that we could buy a coffee and a burger that was surprisingly good.
On the way back to the truck, I mentioned to Natalie that "I'm just going to swing back past that flag again". I think her exact words were "Oh god, that's not good".
This time, I took a closer look. It looked genuinely aged and faded with stains on which I loved. The thick, grand, gold wooden and plaster frame was damaged in places, but definitely had character and no effort had been made to repair it.
I tried to refrain from looking at the $475 price tag, but when I did, I noticed it said 45 star flag from 1898. 45 stars?! I'd never heard of that.
I did a little bit of googling right there and found that the 45th State, was Utah (BTW, I also didn't know that Utah was previously called the 'State of Deseret') a few years before this. Utah officially became the 45th State on January 4th 1896 and the 45 star flag was officially announced on July 4th 1896.
The US flag had 45 stars for 12 years until July 4th 1908 when Oklahoma was admitted to the union on November 16th 1907.
Before we get back to the story, I thought it was interesting to see the history of when all 50 states were added to the flag:
Date of Flag
13 stars - 1777 to 1795
Delaware (December 7, 1787)
Pennsylvania (December 12, 1787)
New Jersey (December 18, 1787)
Georgia (January 2, 1788)
Connecticut (January 9, 1788)
Massachusetts (February 6, 1788)
Maryland (April 28, 1788)
South Carolina (May 23, 1788)
New Hampshire (June 21, 1788)
Virginia (June 25, 1788)
New York (July 26, 1788)
North Carolina (November 21, 1789)
Rhode Island (May 29, 1790)
15 stars - 1795 to 1818
Vermont (March 4, 1791)
Kentucky (June 1, 1792)
20 stars - 1818 to July 3, 1819
Tennessee (June 1, 1796)
Ohio (March 1, 1803)
Louisiana (April 30, 1812)
Indiana (December 11, 1816)
Mississippi (December 10, 1817)
21 stars - July 4, 1819 to July 3, 1820
Illinois (December 3, 1818)
23 stars - July 4, 1820 to July 3, 1822
Alabama (December 14, 1819)
Maine (March 15, 1820)
24 stars - July 4, 1822 to July 3, 1836
Missouri (August 10, 1821)
25 stars - July 4, 1836 to July 3, 1837
Arkansas (June 15, 1836)
26 stars - July 4, 1837 to July 3, 1845
Michigan (Jan 26, 1837)
27 stars - July 4, 1845 to July 3, 1846
Florida (March 3, 1845)
28 stars - July 4, 1846 to July 3, 1847
Texas (December 29, 1845)
29 stars - July 4, 1847 to July 3, 1848
Iowa (December 28, 1846)
30 stars - July 4, 1848 to July 3, 1851
Wisconsin (May 29, 1848)
31 stars - July 4, 1851 to July 3, 1858
California (September 9, 1850)
32 stars - July 4, 1858 to July 3, 1859
Minnesota (May 11, 1858)
33 stars - July 4, 1859 to July 3, 1861
Oregon (February 14, 1859)
34 stars - July 4, 1861 to July 3, 1863
Kansas (January 29, 1861)
35 stars - July 4, 1863 to July 3, 1865
West Virginia (June 20, 1863)
36 stars - July 4, 1865 to July 3, 1867
Nevada (October 31, 1864)
37 stars - July 4, 1867 to July 3, 1877
Nebraska (March 1, 1867)
38 stars - July 4, 1877 to July 3, 1890
Colorado (August 1, 1876)
43 stars - July 4, 1890 to July 3, 1891
North Dakota (November 2, 1889)
South Dakota (November 2, 1889)
Montana (November 8, 1889)
Washington (November 11, 1889)
Idaho (July 3, 1890)
44 stars - July 4, 1891 to July 3, 1896
Wyoming (July 10, 1890)
45 stars - July 4, 1896 to July 3, 1908
Utah (January 4, 1896)
46 stars - July 4, 1908 to July 3, 1912
Oklahoma (November 16, 1907)
48 stars - July 4, 1912 to July 3, 1959
New Mexico (January 6, 1912)
Arizona (February 14, 1912)
49 stars - July 4, 1959 to July 3, 1960
Alaska (January 3, 1959)
50 stars - July 4, 1960 to present
Hawaii (August 21, 1959)
Anyway, back to the story. So while I'm standing there staring at the flag and frame, fascinated by the facts I had just learned, the dealer walks up and took it down from its hanger and offered me to inspect it further.
I could clearly tell that the frame backing was clearly old and the whole thing had weathered evenly. I'm in no way an antiques dealer, but I could tell that was a good sign. There was no modern screws, no sign of any kind of restoration, which just drew me to it more.
He mentioned that he got it at an auction last month, this was the first time he had displayed it for sale and was surprised it hadn't sold already.
After a bit more conversation, I started talking price to him. Eventually, he gave me his final price. I said, "Please hold it for me. If I'm not back in 10 minutes, release the hold". I had to talk to Natalie about this. More than $350 for a useless item that we'll have to carry around in our RV for months is not the smart thing to do, but my inner hoarder just couldn't let it go and out of the million things we had seen that day, there's just something special about it.
Surprisingly to me, Natalie (The least most hoarderish person I've ever met) also saw something special in it. So we scooted off to the onsite portable ATM, paid the extortionate commission rate and got the cash.
I proudly handed over the cash, grabbed my prize and started walking to the truck.
In the 200 yards from the show to our truck, we were stopped by 4 different groups of people admiring our purchase and congratulating us. Everybody wanted to inspect it. Probably to see if I just got scammed. But thankfully for me, nobody could find any faults with it and all agreed it was genuine.
When we got back to the RV, we started to inspect it in more detail. I was sure that the flag was genuine. It would be very hard to fake the wear and tear on it. But I wasn't sure about the frame. The back panel was actually 3 pieces of very thin plywood. In between the sheets, we could see newspaper separating the flag and the planks.
Natalie very carefully peeled back one of the ply sheets. We could see an article headline about Lord Herschell visiting New York on July 28. But no mention of what year. We googled him. He was a Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain until his death in 1899. That's a crazy coincidence that that was the first thing we saw on the paper, but also that he was from Hampshire in the UK, which is where Natalie lived most of her life.
The next panel we pulled back a tiny amount showed us another headline...
"Glayton, NY. 27th and 28th July, 1898".
Although I'm still not 100% confident, I'm 95% sure that this flag was put into the frame in New York in 1898. This means that nobody or anything have touched the flag for nearly 125 years. My crazy imagination also can't help wondering if anything else was included behind the flag. Maybe they slipped an old Greenback in there for safe keeping? Perhaps a diary entry? Maybe a simple note of who made it or owned it?
I also love to imagine where this has been in its life, who owned it and how many people have seen it. Maybe on the wall of a Millionaires New York mansion? Or maybe displayed in the lobby of the infamous Plaza Legacy hotel? How about stored in the basement of an old textile mill for 100 years? Who knows?!
So, what do you think? An excellent example of American history, or a pointless, useless flag in a frame? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.