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General George Washington's Headquarters Flag 1777 Restored and displayed

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#1 ajbUSWM

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 07:58 PM

George Washington's headquarters flag makes historic return to Philadelphia




The headquarters flag used by George Washington during the Revolutionary War will go on display in Philadelphia next month, marking its first public appearance in the city since the war itself.

The rare faded and fragile blue silk flag, which measures two feet by three feet, will be on display in the Museum of the American Revolution from Flag Day, June 14, through June 17. The display will also mark the flag’s first public appearance in Pennsylvania in decades.

Adorned with 13 six-pointed stars to represent the original 13 colonies, the artifact is thought to be the earliest surviving 13-star American flag.

The flag will be joining another historic Washington artifact in the Museum in Philadelphia’s Old City. The General’s Revolutionary War field tent is on permanent display at the Museum of the American Revolution, where it is displayed in a dedicated theater.

Described as ‘the first Oval Office,’ the canvas tent was Washington’s Command Center throughout the Revolutionary War. The tent went on display when the Museum opened its doors in April 2017.

“This is an incredibly special opportunity to witness a true American treasure, General George Washington’s personal flag, under the same roof as the tent that served as his command center throughout the war,” said Museum Chairman and Acting CEO General John P. Jumper, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “The adoption of the U.S. flag took place right here in Philadelphia, so there is truly no better place to celebrate Flag Day and everything it stands for.”

Jumper, a retired four-star general, spent nearly four decades in the U.S. Air Force.
The historic flag was donated to the Valley Forge Historical Society by descendants of George Washington’s sister, Betty Washington Lewis, in the early 20th century. The society subsequently transferred the collection, including the Standard, to the Museum of the American Revolution.

The Museum will also display a replica of the flag that traveled into space with astronaut John Glenn in 1998 as part of the buildup to the bicentennial commemoration of Washington’s death in 1799.

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  • General Washington Revolutionary War Flag 1777 small.jpg

Edited by ajbUSWM, 18 May 2018 - 08:00 PM.

#2 Garandomatic

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Posted 19 May 2018 - 02:50 AM


#3 M24 Chaffee

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Posted 19 May 2018 - 03:56 AM

Thanks for the info! The museum is worth visiting. Im hopeful that theyll utilize more of their space to display more of the many artifacts that they have.


Edited by M24 Chaffee, 19 May 2018 - 03:57 AM.

#4 Steve Rogers

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Posted 19 May 2018 - 06:24 AM

While this is a very, very cool flag, the identification as Washington's HQ flag was challenged quite strongly by Holst in 1994 and 1996, who suggested the flag is actually an artillery flag. The articles Journal of the Company of Military Historians make great reading and a convincing case.

The relevant issues are MCH 46.3 (Fall 1994; )46.4 (Winter 1994;) 48.3 (Fall 1996.)

I am not aware of any rebuttal to Holst's arguments.

#5 ajbUSWM

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Posted 19 May 2018 - 06:32 AM

While this is a very, very cool flag, the identification as Washington's HQ flag was challenged quite strongly by Holst in 1994 and 1996, who suggested the flag is actually an artillery flag. The articles Journal of the Company of Military Historians make great reading and a convincing case.

The relevant issues are MCH 46.3 (Fall 1994; )46.4 (Winter 1994;) 48.3 (Fall 1996.)

I am not aware of any rebuttal to Holst's arguments.


Interesting.... I'll read up on it.  Seems a little elaborate for an artillery flag .... although a little too simple for George Washington's flag.


Flags are odd things... I remember long ago someone claimed to have General Custer's flag from Little Bighorn.  The flag bounced around from sale to sale.. auction to auction and never generated much money (I think under $10,000 each time... not sure).  Then someone bought it and took a few years to research it and found provenance that proved the flag was the original... then it sold for like $1.2 million that year.  Flags are odd things.

#6 dunmore1774

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Posted 19 May 2018 - 05:19 PM

It's a shame that some things are not considered legitimate until the "right people" decide that it is

Edited by dunmore1774, 19 May 2018 - 05:20 PM.

#7 ajbUSWM

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Posted 19 May 2018 - 05:24 PM

It's a shame that some things are not considered legitimate until the "right people" decide that it is


I have a German WWII item that is historically very significant (I don't collect German items) that I know for a fact is 100% original... and I'm still trying to find a living person who triple validate. 


It just takes time.. patience.... but to preserve these historical items... its worth it.   The person with the General Custer flag was certainly patient.  Good for him.

#8 Dave



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Posted 19 May 2018 - 05:48 PM

I'm not at all doubting it's authenticity (I have no experience to say one way or the other) but it does strike me odd that it would be so poorly constructed, particularly considering that many of the officers of the young army (Washington included) were some of the most wealthy men in the colonies and were very well heeled (in spite of many losing their fortunes, I would be hard pressed to think their taste in quality and style suffered a similar fate...). I realize this flag was probably "made in the field" yada yada yada...but back at the time when hand-sewing was all that could be done, many people were proficient in it. Since there were no "chain brand" stores for clothing, there were seamstresses and tailors in just about every town. Assuming they could properly sew clothes, I'd think they'd be able to create a better product - at least the stars could be similarly sized, rather than looking like random snowflakes. I can say that the British flags of the time that I've seen, as well as the many captured foreign flags I viewed on display at the old Central Naval Museum in St. Petersburg, were all made to relatively respectable standards and, aside from being hand-made, were nicely done. 


Once again, I'm not judging authenticity as I am not an expert nor do I claim to be...but I would have expected more, even from a flag made in the field. 

#9 ajbUSWM

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Posted 19 May 2018 - 08:56 PM



You and Steve are correct.  I remembered a while back that Sotheby's sold original Revolutionary War Flags captured by a British Colonel for $17 million...   The flag below was captured from the Continental Army's 2nd Light Dragoons... you can see by the detail.. that it is many times more elaborate than the so-called General Washington flag.


There is no way the Washington flag is original to his headquarters and was more likely from a small battle unit of some sort.



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#10 mmerc20

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Posted 06 September 2019 - 06:28 AM

I hope no one minds me resurrecting this post, but I was wondering something. Did the origin of the Medal of Honor ribbon come from the Washington flag?


#11 teufelhunde.ret



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Posted 07 September 2019 - 02:05 AM

Actually a canton? I think not....

The original flag is silk and measures about 27.5"x 35.5" (70cm x 90cm) which right there raises my suspicion: an odd size and certainly not regulation in any way for any kind of military flag. Of course, as the proponents point out, there was a lot of variation in sizes at the time. Still, one would think Washington of all people would pay more attention to such things. There is also no evidence of any fringe, which in my opinion would likely have adorned the Commander-in-chief's standard (see "Washington's Life Guard Standard", below).

The stars are also silk and appliqued on to one side with the back cut away and stitched in such a way as making the stars smaller on the other side. One would think Washington would have a flag that was painted or embroidered in a much richer fashion, but that is not necessarily so say the proponents.

A linen header is sewn to the hoist. Military flags do not usually have a header of a material different from the body of the field. Most unusual. Some claim it matches the materials of Washington's tent. Maybe so, but all nautical flags at the time had headers that were made of similar stuff; are these Washington's too?

The flag is hemmed along the top only. The fly and bottom edges are torn. What does that suggest to you?

The flag's recorded history begins in 1912 when Miss Frances B. Lovell donated it to the Valley Forge Historical Society. She was a distant descendant of Betty Washington Lewis, the only sister of George Washington. She stated it was known in the family as "Washington's Headquarters Flag" (note that the name is "flag", not "standard" or "colour" which would have been the proper military terms in the 18th century). She did not present any evidence of this.

Numerous paintings show various arrangements of stars on a blue (or red or white) field depicting various events during the American Revolutionary War, many of which (but not all) feature Washington in them. So what? Paintings are not photographs. Washington himself never mentions any such flag in the writings of his that we have; he does mention that he preferred the design with the "Union and emblems in the center" as a standard for the army but we do not have any idea what this looked like. At any rate, even if you assume the Union is a blue field with 13 white stars, there are no "emblems" on this flag so it is certainly not that.

Among the papers of Major General "Mad" Anthony Wayne is a drawing for a seal for the Board of War and Ordinance which features a flag outline with 13 dark 6-pointed stars on it in rows of 4-3-4-2 (more or less) flying from a Liberty Pole with a Liberty Hat on the top with rays coming of of it. It is surrounded by a cannon and cannonballs and two crossed muskets, the name of the Board, the date 1778 (the year the Board was founded), and the motto "This We Will Defend" on a ribbon. Handwriting analysis seems to indicate the artist may have been Francis Hopkinson, the designer of the Stars and Stripes. The seal design is not included in Hopkinson's itemized bill to Congress for his work that he presented in 1780, suggesting that if he did indeed draw this design, it was afterwards (Wayne was involved in the Board just prior to the adoption of the US Constitution in 1789 which rendered the Board moot). One is tempted to interpret the flag on this seal as the Standard of the Army, but the Board had even more duties in supplying Navy Ships with cannonballs and powder, so maybe it is the Navy Jack. Who knows? Hopkinson referred to his US Flag design as the "Naval Flag" so that seems at least equally as likely in my book.

Finally, one must remember that Washington was Commander of the American Army at two different points in time: during the 1775-1781 American Revolution and he was commissioned Commanding General of the Army by President John Adams in 1798, in which capacity he served until his death in 1799. His Commission Certificate shows several flags including one of solid color bearing an oval of 15 white 6-pointed stars. No one has considered the possibility that if this is indeed his "HQ" flag that maybe it dates from this later period.

There is also a depiction of a similar flag on the Standard of Washington's Life Guard, a unit that was formed in 1776 to protect the Commander-in-chief. It was disbanded in 1781 and reactivated in 1798. The flag is dark blue with an oval of 13 white 6-pointed stars and a gold fringe. An officer of the unit is depicted receiving the flag from the Goddess of Liberty. He is wearing a uniform typical of the late 1790s, a style decidedly different than that of the 1770s. Enough said.

The original flag's ratio is 1:1.29. The Town probably stretched this into 3:5 as all good US manufacturers like to do. The original shade of blue is very pale, probably faded from some unknown darker shade, but definitely NOT the dark blue we now associate with Old Glory. When Grace Cooper was studying this flag (and I went along on one trip with her) she asked to open the frame so she could peek at the remaining hem where some evidence of original color might be, but she was told no.

The stars on the original do not all point in the same direction, as is often depicted (think of one ray axis to be the key, oriented either along the horizon (H) or the vertical (V) or half way in between (X), they are oriented something like this in each row: H-V-V, X-X, V-H-V, X-V, H-V-V).

Replicas of the flag are commercially available; the Flag Guys in Newburgh NY sells it with a UN Blue field, which corresponds closely with the existing flag. A photo of the original is on Plate 18, page 196 in Edward Richardson's "Standards and Colors of the American Revolution". Richardson of course absolutely believes the flag was Washington's HQ flag during the Revolution. It is framed in such a way that you cannot see the edges or the header, but these are documented in the Conservator's Report.

Dave Martucci, 11 August 2010

Edited by teufelhunde.ret, 07 September 2019 - 02:06 AM.

#12 Blacksmith

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Posted 07 September 2019 - 04:25 AM

I sometimes wish life, and to some extent this hobby, did not make me so skeptical.

That said, when I first saw this thread, I thought “how do we know?”

I wasn’t thinking any intentional deception, just more about the fallibility of the oral tradition.

This is especially so, from a time that predates photography, and really anything more than written word and artist interpretation.

I have had the good fortune of talking to a lot of veterans and their families over the years, and while all were well-intentioned, misinformation (stuff) happens. One simple example is campaign stars getting confused with BSMs.

Anyway, I am not implying this flag is not what it is purported to be, only, how do we know?

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