On the evening of April 14, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Fords Theater, Washington D.C.The following morning, April 15, at 7:22 a.m., the President died of his wound.
The Museum of Southern History is proud to display a 37-star flag from this era.Why does it have 37 stars?That question is certainly appropriate since it is known that Nevada was made the 36th state on October 31, 1864 and officially earned its star on the flag on July 4, 1865.The 37th state was Nebraska, on March 1, 1867 and was made officially the 37th star on the flag on July 4, 1867.
A current expert on old flags, Jeff R. Bridgman, has stated in an email message, “I have heard that everyone knew Nebraska was on the horizon as early as 1860 and anticipated its addition…. The government didn’t care about its own official star counts.That much is very obvious in flag history.” (1)
There is reference to a 37-star flag owned by the G A R Museum:“Among the many flags on display is the one that hung over Lincoln’s body when it lay in state for a day in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.It is unlikely that anyone who filed by the slain president’s coffin that somber day paused to count the stars on the flag…for if they had, they would have been surprised to find 37, instead of 36 as there should have been.In the haste to fashion a new flag especially for the occasion, someone had added an extra star.”(2)
The Museum’s Lincoln Era Flag is called the “Applegate Flag” because it was handed down through the generations of the John Applegate family.The flag is signed by Louis Applegate (1816-1903) and given to his daughter Louise Applegate Worthington (1840-1926) in 1890; in turn given to her daughter Maggie R. Worthington (1875-1942) in 1926; then to her daughter Gloria Worley Conway (1908-1979) in 1942; and gifted to Mrs. Barnwell Daley on January 9, 1977.Mrs. Daley donated the flag to The Museum of Southern History in 1996. (3)
Louis Applegate worked as an officer (secretary) of an insurance company.After his retirement he and his family moved from New Jersey to Illinois.How and when he obtained the flag is unknown at this time, but the flag is in his possession was dated April 15, 1865, the date of Lincoln’s death.
The Applegate flag is a double appliqué type flag meant to drape a coffin or hang from a wall, since the stars are only meant to be seen from one side.The flag was made by the Annin Company, which still exists today.
“Annin started out in the 1820s in a loft in lower Manhattan, making signal flags for sailing ships, according to the company’s website.It was incorporated in 1847, and Annin flags have borne witness to a lot of American history ever since.
They draped the coffins of slain presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.Annin flags have flown at every Presidential Inauguration since Zachary Taylor’s in 1849.” (4)
The flag was authenticated by “Antiques Roadshow” in Orlando sometime after the Museum acquired it. It had been researched from 1993 through 1996 by The Museum of Southern History”, by contacting many museums and collectors.From what we can determine, it is possibly one of three flags still known to exist that may have been part of the Lincoln burial train tour.
Did the flag drape Lincoln’s coffin?An Annin flag was used for this purpose.“An undated newspaper article in Annin’s archives from the 1860s notes that the U.S. Signal Corps requisitioned all its wartime flags from Annin.Without going through forms of contract, they supplied the government direct…..as the war progressed, orders came pouring in from every state and city that was loyal to the Union, so that by the beginning of 1864 there was not a single battlefield, a brigade or a division [that did not use Annin flags]…..whilst in the Navy—fighting ships and transports—they formed an equally brilliant and imposing decoration.Annin sold 1.5 million flags and emblems during the war.
Annin had supplied the flag for the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln, and is believed to have furnished the flag that draped his casket as it was taken by train from Washington D.C. to Illinois after his tragic assassination in 1865.”(5)
The Museum of Southern History proudly displays this flag for the public to view and to learn of its unique place in our nation’s history.
(1)Private email message from Jeff R. Bridgman dated July 16, 2014 (a copy supplied toThe Museum of Southern History by SGES).
(2)“GAR Museum Is a Treasury ofWar Relics”, Civil War Times Illustrated, by Russell Roberts, September/October 1990, pp 22-24.
(3)Genealogy of the Louis Applegate Family.
(4)“As Country Wraps Itself in Flags, Company Strains To Make Them”, Houston Chronicle, October 6, 2001, by David Voreacos, Bloomberg Business News.
(5)Annin Flagmakers—An Illustrated History, Marian Calabro, 2013, p. 14.