This is a vintage tabletop flag holder, dating to the early 20th century. Fashioned with a decorative iron footed base and turned wooden spindle holder, and seven flag wavers, this flag holder is a wonderful reminder of the spirited community celebrations of the early 1900s.
Political and patriotic celebrations have been held since the founding of our nation. By the middle of the nineteenth century, communities would host such festivities and parades, large and small, to celebrate political candidates or parties, or acknowledge an important date, like the Fourth of July, a town’s founding date, and the Centennial. The men, women, and children who took part in the parades, and those who made up the audience, would excitedly wave small flags- an inspiring sight that added to the jubilant atmosphere of the day.
These parade flags were readily available for purchase from the general or grocery stores in each community. In effort to bolster sales, flag manufacturers would supply these stores with flag stands and flag trees of varying shapes and sizes. They would sit on counters and entice customers to purchase small flags for themselves and others. These flag stands were also popular decorative table displays, acting as patriotic centerpieces at dining and picnic tables, on mantels, and in government buildings and political offices.
This particular flag holder has four feet, composed of open work iron in an artistic scroll and leaf pattern. Affixed atop the iron base is a wooden spindle, with two levels of drilled holes, to hold flag wavers. The spindle comes to a rounded point, with one hole to display a center flag. Currently, seven small antique flags are displayed in the flag holder.
The seven wavers are all 48-star flags, attached to their original wooden sticks. The flags are printed, and made of cotton. In 1912, following the admission of New Mexico and Arizona to the Union, two additional stars were added to the official U.S flag design, bringing the total star count to 48. President Taft's Executive Order No. 1556, issued on June 24, 1912, standardized the canton of the stars on the U.S. flag to 6 even rows of 8 stars. The flag design is completed with 13 alternating red and white stripes, representing the original thirteen colonies. The 48 star flag flew from July 4, 1912 to July 3, 1949, a span of 47 years.
Our flag, with its changing star count and wonderful patterns, was an evolving work of art well into the twentieth century. Each parade flag, no matter the size, was truly ephemeral, not designed to last beyond that day or weekend of celebrations. Nevertheless, these flags were tucked away into books, drawers, and attics, saved as mementos of the special occasion. Each flag that survived is special, a unique connection to the individuals and families of the past that have made our country what it is, from its founding to today.