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Object Name Flag
Date 1861-1863
Description American flag with 34 stars. Handsewn, with overall dimensions approximately 57 x 94 inches. The canton is made of blue wool and cotton blend fabric, constructed in a double layer for added strength, and has applied white stars that are uniformly spaced 4 inches apart. The red stripes are pieced together with vertical seams, and the white stripes are made from muslin sheeting. It has buttonhole-stitched openings at two corners for hanging.
(Keywords: United States, New York)
Acquisition Gift of the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences
Ownership and History Local lore suggests that this flag was homemade at the time of the Civil War and hung outside a boarding house in Stapleton, Staten Island, to assuage the anger of local residents after a Confederate flag was displayed by a tenant there.

It was featured in an episode of "History Detectives," a PBS program highlighting techniques for investigating historical mysteries (it originally aired in 2003). According to Wesley Cowan, an auctioneer and appraiser of flags, this is an authentic flag from the early years of the Civil War, a time when the American flag was becoming increasingly important as a symbol of the Union. Some details of its construction support the claim that it was homemade, but the suggestion that it was produced within one day is unrealistic, particularly because the stars are so finely cut and stitched.

According to the story as relayed by Margaret and Dani Simonson of Stapleton in 1924, the flag belonged to Charles Stebbins. Stebbins was accused of being a Secessionist because a Confederate flag was flown from an upper portico of his boarding house (placed there by "a Southern lady" who was a boarder). Stebbins had the Confederate flag removed, but the mob wanted to see a Union flag in its place, and threatened to burn the house if a new flag was not flying there by dark. He assembled a crew of helpers to make the flag by nightfall, and it hung in that place until the close of the war. Upon the death of Charles Stebbins, the flag came into the possession of his friends and neighbors the Simonsons.
Earliest Date 1861
Latest Date 1863
Subjects Flags
Civil wars
Lexicon Sub-category Ceremonial Artifact
Associated People Stebbins, Charles H.
Catalog Number C06.0209
Support Acknowledgment Online Collections Database record made possible by the Staten Island Historical Society, May 2013.
Legal Status Images and text in this database are copyrighted by the Staten Island Historical Society unless otherwise noted. Items represented here are from the collections of the Staten Island Historical Society. Materials reproduced for personal non-commercial use must credit the Staten Island Historical Society. Commercial licensing is available.