Patriotic Textiles

 

I’ve always loved the Fourth of July. I mean, really, what’s not to love about picnics, band concerts, and fireworks displays? Growing up, we had the best time going to the fireman’s muster out at the fairgrounds and barbequing with family and friends by the lake.

Since my blog post was technically slated to go up on the holiday, it got me thinking about patriotism and textiles. We have numerous patriotic textiles within the collection, but what better way to celebrate the Fourth than to highlight the Butler flag.

The Butler flag, 2001.154

The Butler flag was designed and created by Civil War General Benjamin Butler right here in Lowell, Massachusetts. (General Butler was the founder of the United States Bunting Company, which later became Ames Textile.) The flag was made in 1865, in response to a law stating that all U.S. flags must be produced with American made fabrics. Worsted bunting was the material of choice for flags, as the long wool fibers and worsted spinning process yielded a cloth that was light, strong, and could withstand severe weather conditions. The Butler flag has a unique arrangement of 37 hand appliquéd white cotton stars. The stars are organized in a diamond shape with vertical rows on either side. Although there were only 36 states in 1865, 37 stars were included on the flag in anticipation of Nebraska’s admission into statehood. On an interesting side note to history, General Butler presented the flag to President Abraham Lincoln for his approval on April 11, 1865, just three days prior to Lincoln’s assassination.

Throughout the years, the flag passed through a series of owners, eventually ending up on sale by Sotheby’s auction house in 2001. At that time, it was acquired for the Museum by the Ames Textile Corporation and the Romill Foundation. Ames Stevens, great-great-great-grandson of General Butler, attended the auction to bid on the flag and return it to Lowell.

For more information on the Butler flag, visit The Chace Catalogue.

Deborah-Ann Giusti
Curatorial Assistant

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