Flag Day was first celebrated on June 14, 1889, in a public school in Fredonia, Wis. The teacher thought the pupils should celebrate the 112th anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes.
The idea of a birthday for the flag caught the attention of the public, and the idea spread. By 1891 there was a celebration at the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia, and soon laws were being passed in many states that asked that the flag be flown on all public buildings.
Finally, after nearly 60 years, Flag Day became official when President Harry Truman signed the Act of Congress that made June 14 National Flag Day.
There have been 28 different U.S. flags. Each has used red-and-white stripes and stars, one for each state. Three versions of the flag had the stars in a circle, and three had the stars forming a large six-pointed star.
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Decorations on textiles and porcelain almost always picture the flag of the year they were made. So try to count the stars, then look up when there were that many states. It should give you an idea of the age of your collectible.
A 19th-century copper weathervane, 29 by 18 inches, had a figure of Liberty holding a large flag with 13 painted stars in a circle. That was the design used in 1777-78 and again in 1865-1867. The weathervane was made in about 1867, probably in Waltham, Mass. But many smaller items, including toys, had small flags and only a small space for a design, so often there were only a few stars, even less than 13, so it's not a legal flag and is no help in determining a manufacturing date.
Q: My grandparents left me a silk scarf, 24 1/2 by 15 1/2 inches. There's an American flag in the middle with 45 stars, and around the wide edge there are various symbols, including circles, stars, diamonds and triangles. At the bottom are the words "G.A.R. Encampment, Chicago, Aug. 1900." What is it all about, and is it worth anything?
A: Your scarf is a souvenir from the Grand Army of the Republic gathering in Chicago on Aug. 29-30, 1900. At that point, there were 45 U.S. states, which is the reason your scarf's flag has 45 stars. The GAR was a fraternal organization whose members had served in the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1900, more than 275,000 Union veterans were still alive. The symbols on your scarf were those used by the GAR, and they were often reproduced on GAR souvenirs. A scarf like yours auctioned a few years ago for $192. Yours would sell today for about the same price if it's in excellent condition.
Q: My family's old pink vase is marked "Cauldon England" and "Bailey, Banks & Biddle Co., Philadelphia." It has gold handles, gold around the base and gold trim around the rim. How old is it?
A: The mark Cauldon England on your vase was used from 1905 to 1920 by Cauldon Ltd., a pottery in England's Staffordshire area. The gold trim was used at the same time. The Bailey, Banks & Biddle mark refers to the store that originally sold the vase. The famous store was founded in Philadelphia in 1832 and went bankrupt last year, but it recently reorganized and opened a few new stores.
Tip: Microcrystalline waxes, like Quake Wax or Quake Hold or the wax used by dentists to keep braces from hurting, are good for sticking ceramics and glass on shelves, but don't use them on soft unglazed ceramics such as Indian pots. They leave an oil stain.