After many years under the ownership of Dr. George Ann Huck of Commerce, Missouri, a “30 Star Flag” has made its way into the Special Collections and Archives at Southeast Missouri State University. This notable piece of history - an iteration of the American flag - was first issued in 1848 when Wisconsin joined the Union, but was only in use for three years until California became a state in 1851.
Huck says the flag came from the house of a neighbor she knew growing up. After they died, she bought the house, which retained the contents of its attic though the furniture was taken.
She stumbled upon the flag in 1969 while cleaning out the attic. Since then, it’s been hanging in her living room.
“We framed it,” she said, folding the flag in half. They had kept in mind an effort to preserve the flag whenever displaying it. “It didn’t deteriorate much.”
Huck says her brother and sister attended Southeast, where she’s also spent time in the archives. Though she spoke to others about the flag, she decided the university was the closest “reliable source,” not just on who would know the flag’s history, but on who would appreciate it.
“Once we got it off the wall, we were kind of anxious to see what shape it was in,” Archival Assistant Roxanne Dunn said. “We carefully took it out of the frame, and were pleasantly surprised at what great shape it’s actually in.”
“I still don’t know much about the flag,” Huck says, “I’d like to know who had it--did they carry it in a war?”
Dunn says telling by its good condition, it seems the flag was not exposed to much.
Last year, the Archives had a World War I flag out on display. That flag has faced more deterioration because of its exposure to the natural elements, but that is not the case with this 30-star flag.
“The university actually made [the flag] to commemorate student and faculty involvement in the war,” Dunn said.
Dunn says they typically don’t receive such nationally historic pieces, as most of their archive items are centered around the history of southeast Missouri.
“It’s certainly something that we think is such a real important piece to collect,” Dunn said. “Here on Special Collections and Archives, we really do focus on regional. This is a nice opportunity to step outside that a bit, and look at things on the national level.”
It’s likely, Dunn says, that the rarity the few years the flag was used increased its rarity.
More research into the history of the flag needs to be done, and Huck said she hopes experts at the university and the archive can shed some light on its past, all while having the flag visible for visitors to take a look at history.