Someone turned in a 99-year-old U.S. flag to the Ketchikan American Legion for disposal. The flag is in good shape, and Legion Post No. 3 plans to frame it. They’re looking for the former owner to get some more information on this truly old Old Glory.
Veteran and American Legion member Hunter Davis pulls the old flag out of a large zippered plastic bag and unfolds it. The colors are still bright, and the fabric has aged well.
It’s clearly old, though. And to confirm that, it’s got a date stamped right on the edge.
“This is stenciled: U.S. E., No. 12, Mare Island, March of 1919,” he said.
U.S.E. stands for U.S. Ensign, and ensign is the Navy’s word for a flag. Davis said No. 12 is the smallest flag size authorized for the Navy. And Mare Island in California was the location of a U.S. Naval shipyard, which produced a lot of flags over the years.
All that is known from the stencil.
“Our question is: Who turned it in to us?” Davis said. “Because we’d like to get some background information on it. We intend to frame it, double-sided glass, and hang it in the Post. Whoever turned it in: It’s roughly 20 inches by probably 40-some inches.”
It’s machine sewn and hand-assembled. The stars are most likely hand-stitched.
The American Legion accepts old and worn-out flags for honorable disposal. Members perform that disposal once a year during a ceremony on Flag Day, which is June 14th.
“We will accept U.S. flags, Alaska flags, and also if you need to order them, contact us,” he said. “Leave a message and we will help you if you need new flags.”
Davis said they’ve received other interesting flags through the years that they hung onto rather than disposing.
“We’re pretty sure they were all reproductions,” he clarified. “But we’ve had a Betsy Ross flag turned in, a 48-star flag turned in, one of the Bennington flags have been turned in. There’s no telling what may show up in our box.”
A Bennington flag has 13 stripes, a circle of six-pointed stars and a 76 in the center. Davis said it was first flown over Bennington, Vermont.
He uses the unique flags when he teaches classes.
“One of the pillars of our organization is Americanism. One of the ways we do that is flag classes at elementary schools and the like,” he said. “It’s really great. Kids love the class and how to fold the flag and how to recognize when it’s too beat up to be flown properly anymore.”
Back to the 99-year-old flag: Anyone who knows about the local connection can contact the Ketchikan American Legion Post No. 3 on Park Avenue. They’ll be happy to hear from you.