Finishing Touch Gallery owner Sue Rix works on a stenciled, 42-star flag that will be unveiled at the Carroll County Historical Society museum on Sunday.
Finishing Touch Gallery owner Sue Rix works on a stenciled, 42-star flag that will be unveiled at the Carroll County Historical Society museum on Sunday.
April 25, 2014

A new life for a rare Old Glory will be celebrated at Carroll County Historical Society's annual museum open house Sunday afternoon. John Schumacher of Breda last year presented a stenciled 42-star flag to the Historical Society in memory of his parents, Leonard and Marie Schumacher. The flag was found on a shelf in his parents' garage behind Red's Place bar in Breda. The family believes the flag was owned by John's grandparents George and Mary (Mattes) Schumacher. Schumacher presented the flag to the Historical Society, with confidence that it will have a good home and be displayed well in the museum.

Schumacher believes the flag belongs here for visitors to appreciate, since several generations of his family have lived in Carroll County

From forgotten and overlooked, sitting on a garage shelf, the flag, more than a century old, will now be a star attraction at the open house.

The open house will be from 2 to 4 p.m. In addition to the flag, the open house will feature several presenters: Donna Evans, rug loom; Liz Peterson, lye soap; Marlys Yawarsky, quilting; Laura Comito, spinning wheel; and Ellen Severin, autoharp.

No special flag program is planned. But it has received some gentle, loving care recently, preparing it for display in the museum's military room downstairs.

"The 42-star flag," according to the website North American Vexillological Association, "is one of those rare relics of a very complex time in our history. It is true that is an 'unofficial' flag, but many of them were made. It fact, the correct flag of the period, the 43-star flag, is very scarce and more valuable than the 42."

The 42nd star on the flag recognized the state of Washington's admission to the United States on Nov. 11, 1889. But that came amidst a flurry of new states joining the union, including twin admission of North Dakota and South Dakota, the 39th and 40th states, on Nov. 2, 1889; Montana on Nov. 8, 1889; Washington; Idaho on July 3, 1890; and Wyoming, the 44th state, on July 10, 1890. Six years later Utah became the 45th state, followed by Oklahoma in 1907, New Mexico and Arizona in 1912, and Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.

The Vexillological Association explains the procedure of producing new flags to represent the new states:

"It is the custom and law of the USA to add the new star or stars on the 4th of July following admission, so from July 4th 1876 to July 3rd 1890, the official flag had 38 stars."

After Washington gained statehood, the website continued, "By late spring 1890, Congress had adjourned for the summer and manufacturers made all the 42 star flags they could in anticipation of the 4th of July. However, Congress reconvened, and on July 3rd, 1890, they admitted the State of Idaho, making the 42 star flag obsolete before it was born! Then just seven days later, on July 10, 1890, Wyoming was admitted, so hardly anyone made any 43 star flags at all! The 44 star flag flew from July 4th 1891 to July 3rd 1896."

Carroll County Historical Society president Barb Hackfort said the flag will be displayed in the military room, located in the central section of the downstairs area. That area features uniforms from the various services, artifacts used by soldiers, and information about individual soldiers, including letters they sent home during their service.

Hackfort said the Historical Society the flag is a special addition to the museum and adds that "it's unusual that in came from someone who lived in the county."

Since receiving the flag from Schumacher last year, Hackfort had kept the flag wrapped in tissue.

She recently took it to Sue Rix, owner of Finishing Touch gallery in Carroll, for preservation and display. The flag arrived at Finishing Touch in very brittle condition, apparently it had gotten damp or wet at one time. And a few small pieces at the edge of the stripes are missing. So, Rix has given this history treasure special care.

Rix explained what she's done with the flag: "I carefully unrolled it with cotton gloves on as not good to transfer any oils or lotions on hands to fabric. I left it unrolled, covered in tissue paper until I was ready to work with it. After trying to clean up the flag from any dirt and dust particles from having been stored, I first cut a piece of cotton batting to fit the top of an acid-free foam board. Next I wrapped the board and batting with cotton muslin. It was then that I carefully hand-basted the flag to the wrapped muslin, always using cotton gloves when in contact with the flag. The next step was to wrap the entire piece with tulle, the purpose of which was to hold any pieces of fabric from the flag from 'coming loose' in the framing. The flag was very fragile and in pieces when brought in, deterioration from aging and the environment. After securing the flag, an acid-free mat was floated above the package, and conservation clear glass was used to prevent fading from sun and fluorescent lighting. The materials and process I used will ensure the preservation of this flag for years to come."

The display's frame is antique black with gold crackle, providing a rugged look befitting the historic period represented by the flag.

Rix estimated she'd put in 15 to 20 hours work on the flag preparing it for display.

"I like working on things like this," said Rix, who has a degree in textiles and clothing, "because I like the fact people want to preserve these things. And it makes be curious about the history."

Rix, who opened Finishing Touch in Lake View 30 years ago and moved the business to Carroll in October 1986, added, "Sometimes we tend not to hang on to things that later we wish we could have. Now I'm seeing people want to preserve things like this, wanting to keep things that have meaning to them."

Rix said the flag will be ideal for the museum, noting a piece titled "If These Walls Could Talk" she read recently.

"That's what happens," she remarked. "You put something like this on a wall, and maybe it doesn't talk, but you start a conversation about it."