“The flag is the symbol of what the people of America stand for, what we believe in, and what defines us as citizens of the greatest country in the history of the world. It is the spirit of our individual hopes and dreams and the shining light for democracy everywhere.”
– Author and collector J. Richard Pierce View Flag Descriptions
Princeton – Operation Shoebox New Jersey is proud to have a prominent role in an historic exhibit of American flags at Morven Museum & Garden, the 18th-century mansion that was home to Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and in later years, the official residence of the governor of New Jersey.
“The Stars and Stripes: Fabric of the American Spirit™,” is a tribute to America’s most revered national symbol and features more than 100 one-of-a-kind American flags from the Richard Pierce collection, many dating from the mid-19th century.
Pierce, a Hunterdon County resident and retired banker, has been collecting flags since 1991.
The exhibit opened July 1 and will run through October 30, 2011.
Visitors to Morven are invited to write out postcards and send messages to US troops deployed overseas. The postcards will be included in care packages prepared for shipment by Operation Shoebox New Jersey volunteers.
The flags in Pierce’s collection catalog that period of time when Americans expressed themselves, their patriotism and political preferences with the stars and stripes.
The collection is comprised of parade flags, centennial flags and Civil War flags; they are made from cotton muslin and silk, and some are printed on paper.
“I see the flag as a symbol of our individual freedoms and national unity as well as an enduring tribute to the founders of our nation and the many who sacrificed so much to preserve our way of life,” said Pierce, a graduate of Rutgers University.
This tribute to America’s most revered national symbol traces the evolution of the flag from its creation in 1777 through the twentieth century. In different periods of United States history, the flag has taken on various guises, including a great star, double medallion, diamond, pentagon, and square.
Some are the size of a handkerchief, others no larger than a hand towel; each flag in the exhibit has a unique look. There are subtle as well as dramatic variations of the static 50-star American flag familiar to most.
Prior to 1912, when a federal law established the uniformity of the American flag, there was little that couldn’t be done to embellish or enhance the design or pattern of the stars.
“From the time of its birth in 1777 until President William Taft issued an executive order in 1912 specifying an official star pattern, the arrangement of the stars on the American flag was left entirely to the discretion and creativity of the individual flag maker,” Pierce explains. “Generally, straight rows were commonly used, and as new states were added to our growing nation, row patterns continued to be the design most often followed by flag manufacturers. However, since stars could be arranged in any pattern, an abundance of flags with unusual star configurations was also produced.”
Flags of particular significance in the exhibit are adorned with handwriting and overprints stamped on them; some are accompanied by letters or notes that provide personal links to the past. Noteworthy examples depict political campaigns, Civil War reunions, Fourth of July celebrations, anniversary commemorations and everyday experiences shared by ordinary Americans.
Pierce wrote a book – “Stars and Stripes – Fabric of the American Spirit” an attractive and scholarly tribute that includes 150 photos of his collection. It is available at the Morven gift shop, or online at amazon.com.
Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon – 4 p.m. Tickets are: $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and free for Friends of Morven. Free parking is available on site.
Morven Museum & Garden is administered by Historic Morven, Inc., a non-profit organization founded in 1987, in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of State. The state acquired Morven in 1954. For more information, please visit www.morven.org, or call 609-924-8144 ext. 113.