Heritage, Volume 18, Number 1, Winter 2000 Page: 28
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Interesting and sometimes unknown facts can
be revealed during the flag conservation process,
as shown in this example. From top to bottom:
Image one, the red star flag, was originally
believed to be the banner of the First Texas
Infantry. The second image is of the flag as it
was sent to the conservator. The third
photograph depicts the banner during the
conservation process. Image four is of the
finished piece, revealing that the flag was
actually that of the Nineteenth Texas Cavalry.
Photographs by Dan Hatzenbuehler for the
United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Maberry Jr., the flag of the First Texas
Infantry was made by Lula Wigfall,
daughter of the regiment's first colonel
Louis T. Wigfall. Records indicate
that the flag was sewn from some of
Ms. Wigfall's dresses and presented to
the regiment during an elaborate ceremony
at Richmond in the summer of
1861. The flag was carried by Texans
throughout the Peninsula Campaign.
It was present at the Battle of Second
Manassas in August 1862 and in Maryland
during Lee's first invasion of the
north. During the battle of Antietam,
nine color bearers fell carrying this
flag. When the ninth man fell, the flag
was picked up from among the dead
bodies by a Pennsylvania private. The
flag was returned to Texas in 1905 by
the federal government. During documentation
for conservation, it was
found that the flag was handsewn
throughout by a very highly skilled
seamstress. Techniques used in construction
more closely resembled dressmaking
than flag manufacture. The
ribbed silk fabric used in the canton
was a garment fabric, not one typically
used for flag construction. While the
blue material was a dress fabric, there
was no evidence it was made from a
dress. It may have been purchased dry
goods. The damage was extensive with
at least eight inches of the fly missing.
Damage was from use and
"souveniring," since it was a common
practice for men to take a piece of their
revered flag as a souvenir (see image on
Often flags will arrive in the conservation
laboratory in unrecognizable
condition. One such flag was a banner
from the Texas Confederate Museum
of the United Daughters of the
Confederacy. The small silk flag was
listed as "one of the flags of the First
Texas," described as a white field with
a red star. When pieced together during
conservation the flag proved to
have an off-white fly with a white star
and "TEX 19" painted in red across the
fly. The flag's real identity was that of
the Nineteenth Texas Cavalry. The
dyes have faded so that the original
color is not evident, but the blood
stains remain as testimony to its use
(see images at left on this page).
When documenting flags, sampling the
particulate matter on the surface of the fabrics
may be important in confirming and
supporting the flag's reported history. Particle
sampling can provide information on
soils, pollens, combustion products, salt
spray, and other particulates that the flag
came in contact with during its lifetime.
Once a flag is washed, all of this information
is forever lost. Examination of the particulate
matter played a key role in confirming
the identity of two very significant
flags, including the original flag that flew
over Fort Sumter on April 1, 1861, and the
national flag that the men of the Twentieth
Maine fought under at Gettysburg.
Once a flag is documented and the
plans for use are established, the conservator
must design an appropriate treatment
that will provide for the preservation
of the flag with a minimum amount
of intervention. Less is more. If a flag is
intact and the intended use is storage, no
further treatment may be carried out. If
the flag is in numerous pieces and will be
handled, a system of encapsulation between
two layers of sheer fabric may be
necessary to keep the flag intact. Flags
should not be sewn to a solid-backing fabric,
as the fabric on the back hides half of
the flag. Flags have two sides: an obverse
and a reverse, and both sides are equally
important. There is no front or back.
Treatments that cover one side hide half
of the flag. No one would ever cover half
of a painting, even though both sides of
the face are similar, yet covering half of a
flag is a common practice.
Aged fabrics should not be sewn, as the
sewing thread is harder and stronger than
the fabric and will eventually cut through.
Adhesives change the entire texture and
drape of a fabric. When a fabric is attached
to a support with an adhesive, the adhesive
eventually breaks all of the old fibers
apart. Adhesives have a different coefficient
of expansion, and therefore they respond
differently to changes in the environment.
Being the weaker of the two materials,
the textile breaks when the adhesive
expands.Therefore, placing the fragmented
fabrics between two layers of sheer
new fabric provides a "safe" system of stabilization.
The fragments can be held in
place by sewing around the perimeter of
each fragment, thereby avoiding sewing
through the old fabric.
HERITAGE * 28 * WINTER 2000
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 18, Number 1, Winter 2000, periodical, Winter 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45388/m1/28/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.