Revised and Updated : 10-20-2005
(Is This America's Only Flag)
(Or Did America Once Have Two Flags)
There are several Sites on the Internet making the claim that prior to the Civil War, and for some time thereafter, the United States actually had TWO distinct and seperate Flags; a "Military Federal Flag" and a "Civilian Federal Flag". They believe that
the "Stars and Stripes" was strictly a Military Flag, to be used only by the Military Forces of the United States. They also believe that there was a "Civil Flag", a Flag that was to be used by all Civilian Branches of the Federal Government, and flown over All Non-Military Federal Buildings .
One site claims:
"It is believed by some historians that the Civil Flag was discontinued after the Civil War when the federal government imposed military governments in the States and disbanded civilian government. As a show of it's power over the States, Civil Flags were discontinued and Old Glory became the sole emblem representing the People of the United States of America, united under military (or admiralty) rule. For over 100 years, the Civilian U.S. Flag was flown by a select citizenry that could afford to buy them. While most were of the design of the Customs Bureau and it's American Eagle, many continued to adorn the original look from 1777 with a constellation of stars on a blue field and with red and white vertical stripes. By 1900, the Civil Flag had all but disappeared except for the occasional use by the government's revenue cutters and more recently, the Coast Guard with a modified design. By 1980, nearly all documentation of the Civil Flag had been omitted in school text books and it's existence left as a mystery in a few old photographs and a rare mention in classic books".
The above passage claims that the Customs Flag was actually the Civil Flag; this is completely false! I could find no evidence to support this claim. (I find it compelling that not one proponent of this theory can supply us with any evidence, either) ! It also claims some Historians believe the use of the Civil Flag was discontinued after the Civil War; this again is completely false; I could not find one Prominent Historian who believes this. It also makes the Claim that all traces of the Civil Flag have been erased from History. According to their own theory, this Flag would have been in use for at least 63 years (1799-1862). Is it even possible to erase from History all traces of a Flag that had supposedly been around for so long? It seems unlikely!
The "Civil Flag" - What They Claim
There are two schools of opinion as to what this supposed "Civil Flag" actually was. One side claims that the "Revenue Ensign" (also known as the Customs Flag) is the supposed "Civil Flag".
Revenue Ensign of 1799 (Customs Flag)
I will go into detail about the Revenue Ensign below; but lets examine this idea for a brief moment. The Revenue Ensign was adopted on August 1, 1799. It was to be flown on Revenue Cutters of the Customs Service, engaged in the prevention and detection of smuggling, in lieu of the National Ensign (the Stars and Stripes). The "Revenue Ensign" was the equivalent of a policeman's badge, letting ships know that the Cutter flying this ensign was a US Customs Revenue Cutter, and had the Authority to stop any vessel within the boundary of U.S. waters. The Flags were also flown over U.S. Customs Houses. And what was the job of the Revenue Cutters and the Customs Houses? To make sure that the Excise Tax on all imports were collected. Notice the word "Revenue" (like in "Internal Revenue")? In other words, the Revenue Ensign (or Customs Flag) was the flag of Uncle Sam's TAX Collector! Now, can you imagine the same People who started a Revolution over "No Taxation without Representation" turning around and adopting the "Tax Collectors" Flag to represent peace or civil authority? The idea is ridiculous! Also, as stated above, the "Revenue Ensign" was the equivalent of a Policeman's Badge (or Blue/Red Lights), letting ships know that the Cutter flying this ensign was a US Customs Revenue Cutter, and had the Authority to stop any vessel within U.S. waters. Now can you imagine your Local Police handing out Badges or Blue Lights to everyone in town? Again, the idea is ridiculous!
The Other Flag being proposed as the Civil Flag is described as a "White Union with Blue Stars and a field of 16 Vertical Red and White alternating Stripes" - The "Civil Flag of Peace".
The Other Alleged "Civil Flag" - The "Civil Flag of Peace"
I can find no documentation, or historical evidence, to support that this Flag has ever existed. And believe me I looked! I did, however, find evidence of FRAUD on these sites (whether intentional or not, that is for the reader to decide). So, lets now examine what I actually found when I went looking!
Note: Clicking on any URL (they are all in Purple) or Photo will Open them up in a New Window (if you use a pop-up blocker, you must hold the 'ctrl' button)
An Important Message From SCRIBE
There are those who will be very offended at what I have written here. But I believe that we must, as Honest, Free People, represent the Facts as we find them, regardless of whether or not they are to our satisfaction! To do any less would make us no better than those on the other side who use lies and deceit to accomplish their goals (like the Gun Grabbers or the Free Press Fakers)! Those of us who believe in the Ideals and Values of our Fore-Fathers, and who want to restore our once great Constitutional Republic to its true and former self, MUST hold ourselves to a higher standard when reporting informatiion.
Those of you who have read my articles in the past know that I always research my material thoroughly, and will only draw conclusions that are based on verifiable facts. The same is true here. I started this project out last year with one intention: to verify as to whether or not the Civil Flag did indeed exist. I had no bias one way or the other; before this piece I knew next to nothing about the history of America's Flags. That is not the case anymore!
This article is the result of over 1 Year of meticulous research! I am now completely confident with my facts, and the conclusions I have come to. I have made sure to incorporate into the article those Historical Records or Documents that are relevant to the subject, and have included links to the appropriate web-pages, so that the reader can verify the facts for themselves. (By the way, this is an area where the "Civil Flag" web-sites are found to be in very short supply of; Evidence and/or Verifiable Documentation).
Note: An Excellent Source where one can research early American Flags is, believe it or not, Auction House Web-Sites. Browsing these sites, I have seen literally Thousands of Historic American Flags of all types, shapes, and sizes, dating as far back as 1775. These are flags that have been held by Families, and handed down from Generation to Generation. There are numerous versions of the "Stars and Stripes"; Civil War Flags of every kind; and even "Revenue Cutter" Flags. But guess what? In all those thousands of Flags, there was No Civil Flag; not even One.
(I have included a sample Auction-House Web-Page here; just click on the URL)
The Origins of the "Civil Flag" Myth
I was starting to wonder where this whole idea of a Civil Flag originated. Except for the 7 or 8 Civil Flag Web-Sites, I could find no other reference to such a Flag. But then, when I came across a US Customs Web Page, dated January of 2000, everything began to make sense! The page, entitled: Tradition, Service, Honor; The Customs Ensign - By Anne Saba, Customs Archives – is at:
The date of January of 2000 is significant, because many of these Civil Flag Web-Sites date to February of 2000 or thereafter. There are Several Important Pieces of information contained on this US Customs Web Page which should be noted.
First: In the last half of the third paragraph on the Customs Web Page, we read: "Wolcott, therefore, raised the number of stripes to sixteen, and significantly, turned their arrangement ninety degrees to differentiate the new revenue cutter ensign from the U.S. Flag. The noted author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who served as customs surveyor at the port of Salem, Massachusetts, from 1846 to 1849, would later suggest the 'Stripes turned vertically, not horizontally, (indicated) a civil, not military, post of Uncle Sam's government'."
This is a quote from the 'The Custom House', the introduction to Nathaniel Hawthorne's book 'The Scarlet Letter'; which was published in 1850. To Read the Complete: "The Custom-House: Introductory" from Nathaniel Hawthorn's "The Scarlet Letter", just click on this URL:
Second: A photo of a Customs Ensign (Flag) being raised over the United States Appraiser's Store (Customs House) in Port of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1919.
The caption next to the Photo reads: "The original Customs Ensign, flown continuously between 1799 and 1951, is shown in this photograph being raised over the United States Appraiser's Stores at the Port of Pittsburgh, Pa., on July 4, 1919. From left to right: Eli G. Corbly, Messenger; Harold C. Harbison, Examiner; John B. Thomas, Opener & Packer; Charles A. Davis, Inspector; W.S. Bowler, Examiner; and James Houlahen, Appraiser of Merchandise". (Taken from: "Tradition, Service, Honor; The Customs Ensign - By Anne Saba, Customs Archives" at:
Customs Flag Raising - July 4, 1919
A "Civil Flag" Web-Site Changes the Photo's Caption
But one Site (http://www.barefootsworld.net/uscivilflag.html) , (in an attempt to deceive the reader?), has gone ahead and changed the original caption of this photo from what is posted at the original web-site, to: "The Flag of Peace, US Civil Flags in 1919 at the end of World War I".
barefootsworld: "The Flag of Peace - US Civil Flags in 1919 at the end of World War I"
(Now, remember, according to United States Customs Service's own web-page "Tradition, Service, Honor", the photo is of:
"US Customs Appraisers at a 'US Customs Flag' raising ceremony, at the opening of a New 'US Customs House' at the Port of Pittsburgh, PA, on July 4, 1919.)
So, the question is, WHY did the author of the 'barefootsworld web-site' CHANGE the Photo's Caption? Was it his intention to make it seem as if this was an "end of the war" peace rally?
Or was he simply copying what he found at another "Civil Flag Web-Site"?
It really doesn't matter, because either way, the deception remains!
During World War 1, the ONLY Flag America had was the good-old "Stars and Srtipes". There was no "civil flag" or "flag of peace". If there had been, then these two Ladies in the picture below would have definately been carrying it!
In 1917, Jane Addams and Mary McDowell campaign for World Peace, and an end to World War 1
Now, if there had been a "civil flag" or "flag of peace", Jane Addams SURELY would have been carrying one! She was a Co-Founder of both the ACLU and the NAACP. She was passionately opposed to the War, and a staunch supporter of Peace. In 1915, the year after W.W.I began, she organized the International Congress of Women, and the Woman's Peace Party (of which she was elected national chairman). She went to the International Woman's Conference in The Hague and was chosen to head the commission to find an end to the war. It was in 1917, when the US joined the war, that Jane started to be strongly criticized. She organized and attended peace rallies and protests against the war. In 1919, Jane was the American delegate for the Second Women's Peace Conference where the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom began. Jane was elected the first president, a position she held until her death. Addams would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
Why would Jane Addams, an ardent supporter of Peace, and someone so opposed to war, carry the "Stars and Srtipes", (a Military Flag of War accoring to the civil flag supporters), and not the alledged "civil flag" the "flag of peace"? Because the "civil flag" did NOT exist. That's why!
The above photo Documents, that while protesting for PEACE in 1917, Jane Addams carries the ONLY American Flag there is, none other than the "Stars and Srtipes".
This same web site (http://www.barefootsworld.net/uscivilflag.html) , which promotes the "White Union with Blue Stars and a field of 16 Vertical Red and White alternating Stripes" Civil Flag, also make this FALSE Claim:
"Before 1940, no U.S. flag, civil or military, flew within the forty-eight states except in federal settings and installations. Only state flags did.".
This statement is without a doubt, False! Whether the Authors have mistakenly believed this to be true, or knowingly lied, I can not say; only they know! But, had they done even a little research, as I did, they would have KNOWN the claim to be false! There are Dozens of Photo archives where the Author could have gone, and found, just as I did, Thousands of Photos which contradict this statement.
All Pictures can be found at the Photo Archives:
Turn of the Century America - from 1880 up through to 1929 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/detroit/dethome.html
Small Town America - from the 1850s up through to 1920
(Click on any Photo to Enlarge)
In every photo, which ALL pre-date World War II, you can clearly see the US Flag flying (you must click on each photo to enlarge them). And NOT ONE is a Federal Setting! We have the Prospect Mountain House in Lake George, NY in 1864, a Parade in Buffalo, NY in 1897, the Catskill Mountain Resort in the Catskill Mountains, N.Y. in 1898, a home in Saint Clair Flats, Michigan in 1899, Congress Street in Portland Maine in 1904, 2 Bathing Beauties on the Beach in Atlantic City, N.J in 1905, the Silver Bay Wharf Resort at Lake George in NY in 1909, the HT Anthony Co - 591 Broadway, NY City in 1901, and a Fire House in Chevy Chase Maryland in 1929. And these are only 9 out of thousands of Photos which I have found in various Archives, showing the "Stars and Stripes" flying over Homes, Towns, Resorts, Cities, and States; dating from the early 1860's, and running all the way up and through to today.
Prospect Mountain House, Lake George, NY – 1864
HT Anthony Co - 591 Broadway - NY, NY - 1901
Morgan's - Saint Clair Flats, Michigan - 1899
Looking Down Congress Street, Portland, Maine – 1904
Bathing Beauties - Atlantic City, N.J – 1905
Silver Bay Wharf, Lake George, NY - 1909
Catskill Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, N.Y. – 1898
Fire House - Chevy Chase, Maryland – 1929
Parade - Buffalo, NY - 1897
Clearly, the statement is False! Was it intentional? Only the author knows. But to publish such a statement without first checking its authenticity is, in my opinion, Irresponsible and Immoral! Do we not say the same thing about those who fabricate similar statements when the issue pertains to something which we care about, such as Firearms or the Bill of Rights?
What the Historical Records Tell Us
National Flag - The 'Stars and Stripes'
History tells us that the 'Stars and Stripes' has been the National Flag of the United States since it's adoption on June 14, 1777.
The First 'Stars and Stripes' - The National Flag of the United States
On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation".
Flag Act of 1777 - Second Continental Congress - June 14, 1777
Then, on January 13, 1794, the Third Congress of the United States amended the flag law, changing the number of stripes to 15 and the number of stars to 15, to take effect on May 1, 1795.
The 15 Star - 15 Stripe - US Flag of 1794
Flag Act of 1794 - Third Congress - January 13, 1794
In late December of 1817, Congressman Peter Wendover of New York submitted the Bill, "HR-32 - A Bill to Alter the Flag of the United States", to once again alter the Flag.
The 20 Star - 13 Stripe - US Flag of 1818
In March of 1818, Congressman Wendover took to the floor of the House to support his bill. Below are parts of the Speech given by Congressman Wendover that day in March 1818: "In complying with a duty incumbent upon me, as resulting from a proposition I had the honor to submit to the House, for altering in part the flag of the United States, I feel no disposition to consume much of the time of the Committee, or to indulge in the many observations which the nature of the subject might appear to justify. But I ask the patience the Committee while I state a few of the considerations which present themselves in favor of the Bill now on your table.... Sir, the importance attached to a national flag, both in its literal and figurative use, is so universal, and of such ancient ongin, that we seldom inquire into the meaning of their various figures, as adopted by other nations, and are in some danger of forgetting the symbolic application of those composing that of our own... Suitable symbols were devised by those who laid the foundation of the Republic; and I hope their children will ever feel themselves in honor precluded from changing these, except so far as necessity may dictate, and with a direct view of expressing by them their original design....
Mr. Chairman, I am not particularly informed as to the origin of our flag, but have repeatedly heard it was first used by a citizen of Philadelphia, on his own vessel, and afterwards adopted by the Congress of the Revolution, as appropriate to and emblematic of these confederated States, contending for the Rights of Man, and the rich boon of an Independent Government. At its adoption our flag was founded on a representative principle, and in the arrangement of its parts made applicable to the number of States then united against a common foe. The same representative principle was retained and applied when the flag was altered; but experience having shown that a similar extension of numbers throughout, the flag would NOW be improper and inconvenient. It is worthy the attention of the National Legislature again to consider the subject, and see if it be practical to retain in it the object contemplated by its founders, as pointing to the component parts of the Nation, without losing sight of the original formation of this Government as a Free Republic....
The committee who reported this bill deemed it advisable to direct that the stripes be horizontal; this is now the form in use; but it results from example, and not from the act, and would be equally conformable to law, if the Stripes were arranged in a perpendicular direction. There is, indeed, one exception in practice. Under the laws for the collection of impost and tonnage, the Executive has directed that the Cutters and Boats employed in this service (Revenue Cutters Service) shall carry Ensigns and Pennants with Perpendicular (Vertical) Stripes, and other marks of distinction; but this being alterable at the pleasure of the President, forms no objection to the proposition in the Bill.... Sir, the proposition before you is predicated on the fact already stated, that your flag has been altered. Were it not so, I presume it would not NOW be changed; it is at present inapplicable to original or existing facts; let it now be made to refer to both. Where is the American who feels not a becoming pride and gratitude in retrospecting to the days of the Revolution; when the blood of our fathers profusely flowed, to procure for us a rich inheritance? In their memory, and to their honor, let us restore substantially the flag under which they conquered, and at the same time engraft into its figure the after-fruits of their toil. Mr. Chairman, I hope this bill will pass, and wish it to pass with much unanimity; not only because I believe it will meet the public approbation, and be best calculated to give sufficient permanency to the form of your flag, but because there yet remains a few, and, indeed, but few, who first nerved their arm to raise this banner of Freedom, and nobly defended it, through carnage and blood, to victory and to peace. With hoary locks and tottering frame they have been preserved to see it acquire a renown which I trust will never fade; and have lived to witness in their sons that heroic spirit, which assures them that their privations and their arduous struggle in defense of Liberty have not been in vain....
But, sir, whatever be the fate of this bill, I hope the time is not distant when you will give to your flag its deserved honor, as the Guardian of your Citizens; when your hardy seamen shall no longer be doomed to the degradation to ask for, nor you to give them, paper protection; but when they shall point aloft to the flag of their country, and say, 'This is the Protection of Freemen; under this we desire peacefully to traverse the Ocean and sail to every clime. But perish the arm that shall attempt to seize upon our persons; and woe to the nation that shall dare to infringe our Country’s Rights'! And whenever called to the contest by the voice of their country, may they rally round the 'Star Spangled Banner' and emphatically exclaim - 'High waving, unsullied, unstruck, proudly showeth, What each friend, and each foe, and each neutral knoweth; That her path is ethereal, high she aspires, Her stripes aloft streaming, like boreal fires. Joined with stars, they astonish, dismay, or delight, As the foe, or the friend, may encounter the sight'... Mr. Chairman, I shall add no more. The subject is plain and well understood; and though not of a character to be classed with those of the highest National importance, is still proper to be acted on, and worthy the attention of the Representatives of a People whose Flag will never be insulted for want of protectors, and which, I hope and believe, will never be struck to an inferior or equal force....".
To read the complete speech by Congressman Wendover, which is quite moving, just click on this URL: http://home.myfairpoint.net/vzeo1z2a/Speech.html
On April 4, 1818, the 15th Congress of the United States voted again to amended the flag law; but this would be the last time. This act, which took effect on July 4, 1818, reduced the number of stripes back to 13, and that by Law , from then on, the thirteen stripes must be horizontal (since up to that time the flag law never stated the stripes HAD to be horizontal); it also specified that the stars increase to 20, and that a new star will be added on the 4th of July following the admission of a new State or States to the union.
Nowhere in the original flag law of 1777, or in the amendments of 1794 and 1818, do they ever refer to the "civil flag of the United States" or the "military or naval flag of the United States"; they only refer to the "Flag of the United States". Why? Because the 'Stars and Stripes' has been the National Flag of the United States since it's adoption, and has been used for both Military AND Civilian purposes since its inception.
All of the Above Pages from the Congressional Record Can be found at:
Stars and Stripes – Pre-Civil War Use
I must say, that after weeks of searching through hundreds of archives, I could find not even ONE mention of the 'Civil Flag' anywhere prior to the year 2000! There is NO evidence, that I could find, to support that the Civil Flag ever existed. But, I did find evidence to support the fact that the 'Stars and Stripes' was used not only by the Military in the Pre-Civil War era, but also by the Civilian Population, and Commerce as well! Unfortunately, not many photographs exists from this period, because photography (perfected in 1839) would not be in wide spread use until the early 1860's. And, early 19th century paintings which depicted the National Flag in use, are rare on the Internet (I know, I searched for days)! Most of the evidence lies in the speeches, articles, and letters from the period. But, I did find a few paintings, and one letterhead.
(Click on any Photo to Enlarge)
US Flags in Emblem on Letterhead of Port of Mobile, Alabama - 1845
Sailing Vessel: Great Republic - 1853
Steam Ship: Great Republic - 1859
I have broken the rest of this article into two sections. In part one, I will give a brief history of the 'Revenue Ensign' or 'Customs Flag' (a Flag now being mistaken for the 'Civil Flag'); including its origin, a description of the flag, and it's intended and actual uses. In part two, I will explore how this Invention of the 'Civil Flag' came about, and show how all of the 'Civil Flag' web site's evidence leads to only one conclusion; that the 'Civil Flag' never existed. I will tell you that much time was spent researching the information contained in this article. I have done my best to substantiate every claim, and hope that the reader will come away satisfied with the results.
PART ONE: THE “REVENUE ENSIGN” OR CUSTOMS FLAG
Revenue Ensign of 1799
Revenue Cutters and the Need for a Special Flag
The Revolutionary War left the new Government of the United States, not only broke, but deeply in debt. That, along with the mounting costs of the Military Action against the Indians in the Western Regions, meant the federal government needed money, and fast. After the disaster of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, the government decided to concentrate on another area of lost Revenue - Smuggling.
Following the American Revolution, Congress dismantled the Continental Navy, and naval matters were administered by the War Department. By 1785 the last of the Continental Navy's ships had been sold, leaving the New Republic with no Naval force to protect its interests on the seas. The Treasury Department, which quickly became the largest department of government, was responsible for collecting customs duties at the various ports, and these revenues were an important source of income for the Government.
However, by 1790 maritime smuggling to avoid the payment of import tariffs was a well-established practice along the American coast. Although the Treasury Department was responsible for collecting customs and duties, operating lighthouses, and registering vessels, it had no means for dealing with the problem of maritime smugglers. On April 23, 1790, Alexander Hamilton presented Congress with a Bill calling for the establishment of a "Revenue Marine Service" with an initial fleet of ten small cutters to enforce revenue laws and prevent smuggling. Congress passed Hamilton's Revenue Cutter bill on August 4, 1790.
In addition to preventing smuggling, the Revenue Cutter Service performed other important naval duties. But the small number of vessels (10), and the huge volume of maritime tasks they were expected to perform became overwhelming! They did the best that they could under the circumstances. This led to the establishment of the United States Navy by an Act of Congress on April 30, 1798. From this point on, the Revenue Cutters would concentrate on smuggling.
It was now the sole task of these 10 Revenue Cutters to patrol US Waters, and to stop, board, and search any ship suspected of smuggling. (The Revenue Cutter Service, a branch of the US Customs Service, would later become the United States Coast Guard). This led to a problem; how were ships entering US waters to know that these vessels were US Customs “Revenue Cutters”, and actually had the Authority to board and search them? Since Ships were required to fly the National Flag of the Nation in which they were registered, every Ship registered in the US would be flying the 'Stars and Stripes'. How would any one know these vessels were Revenue Cutters? The answer; the "Revenue Ensign".
The Revenue Ensign - Flag Description and History
The Revenue Ensign was adopted on August 1, 1799, to identify the cutters of the Revenue Marine, the principal predecessor of the modern Coast Guard. It was to be flown on Revenue Cutters of the Customs Service, engaged in the prevention and detection of smuggling, in lieu of the National Ensign (the Stars and Stripes). The "Revenue Ensign" was the equivalent of a policeman's badge, letting ships know that the Cutter was a US Customs Revenue Cutter, and not a pirate ship; just as today's Coast Guard ensign serves as the seagoing equivalent of a policeman's badge, alerting ships to a Coast Guard vessel's law enforcement authority.
The "Revenue Ensign" was adopted on August 1, 1799, by Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, with the approval of President John Adams. On March 2 of that year, Congress had enacted the “Customs Administration Act”, providing in part that "the Cutters and Boats employed in the service of the Revenue shall be distinguished from other vessels by an ensign and pendant, with such marks thereon as shall be prescribed by the President."
All of the Above Pages from the Congressional Record Can be found at:
The job of designing the distinguishing ensign eventually fell upon Oliver Wolcott, who had replaced Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury in 1795. On June 1, 1799, Wolcott submitted his design to President John Adams for approval. Wolcott’s proposal featured an ensign of sixteen vertical stripes, alternating red and white, representing the number of states that had joined the Union by 1799. In suggesting a correspondence of stripes and states, Wolcott was following the lead of Congress, which in 1794 had changed the national flag to fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, implying an adjustment at the entry of each new state. Wolcott, therefore, raised the number of stripes to sixteen, and significantly, turned their arrangement ninety degrees to differentiate the new revenue cutter ensign from the U.S. Flag.
For the union of the ensign, who's background was to be white, Wolcott proposed using the Arms of the United States, officially adopted by Congress in 1782, displaying an American bald eagle clutching a bundle of arrows in its sinister talon, and an olive branch in the dexter talon. The union of the ensign was poignant with historical detail, inasmuch as there are 13 stars, 13 leaves to the olive branch, 13 arrows in the Eagles talon, and 13 bars to the shield. All corresponded to the number of states constituting the union at the time the nation was established. The 16 vertical stripes in the body are symbolic of the number of States composing the Union when this ensign was officially adopted.
The Coat of Arms of the United States: A coat of arms is the official mark and emblem of a sovereign nation's authority. The Coat of Arms of the United States contains an American Bald Eagle, clutching an olive branch in his right (dexter) talon, and a bundle of thirteen arrows in his left (sinister) talon. On the breast of the eagle is a shield with thirteen vertical white and red stripes, beneath a blue chief. In his beak is a scroll inscribed with the motto "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of many, one). Over the head of the eagle, a golden glory is breaking through a cloud, and surrounds a constellation of thirteen stars on an azure field.
The Coat of Arms of the United States
The Coat of Arms was meant to symbolize the beliefs and values of the founding fathers and the new nation. The red and white stripes of the shield represent the states united under and supporting the blue, representing the Chief and Congress. White symbolizes purity and innocence, red signifies hardiness and valor, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The shield is supported solely by the American eagle to denote that Americans should rely on their own virtue. The number 13, symbolic of the 13 original colonies, is displayed in the bundle of arrows, the stripes of the shield, and the stars in the constellation. The olive branch and the arrows display the power of peace and war. A new nation taking its place among established, sovereign states is represented by the constellation of stars. The motto E Pluribus Unum expresses the union of the 13 states.
From the Congressional Record - Thursday, June 20th, 1782: "The Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled to whom were referred the several reports of committees on the device for a great seal, to take order, reports: That the Device for an Armorial Achievement & Reverse of the great seal of the United States in Congress assembled is as follows – Arms: Paleways of thirteen pieces Argent and Gules: a Chief, Azure. The Escutcheon on the breast of the American bald Eagle displayed, proper, holding in his dexter talon an Olive branch, and in his sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows, all proper, & in his beak a scroll, inscribed with this Motto; 'E pluribus unum' - For the Crest: Over the head of the Eagle which appears above the Escutcheon, A Glory, Or, breaking through a cloud, proper, & surrounding thirteen stars forming a Constellation, Argent, on an Azure field".
Charles Thomson, who created the final design for the 'Great Seal of the United States', which includes the 'Coat of Arms of the United States' on the Obverse, gave these Remarks and Explanation for the Arms: "The Escutcheon [shield] is composed of the chief & pale, the two most honorable ordinaries. The Pieces, paly, represent the several states all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole & represents Congress. The Motto alludes to this union. The pales in the arms are kept closely united by the chief and the Chief depends upon that union & the strength resulting from it for its support, to denote the Confederacy of the United States of America & the preservation of their union through Congress. The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue, the colour of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice. The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress. The Constellation denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers. The Escutcheon is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue".
To read about the history of the 'Coat of Arms of the United States', the Obverse side of the 'Great Seal of the United States'; go to: http://greatseal.com/index.html
Walcott’s use of the National Arms in the union of the revenue cutter ensign was not unique: American regimental colors at the end of the Revolutionary War featured the Arms and stripes. One such flag, dating from 1784, and now preserved at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, shows the union’s eagle beneath an arc of thirteen stars, bearing in its talons three arrows and an olive branch, much like the eagle placed in the union of the first revenue cutter ensign. A similar flag appears in portraits by the artist Charles Wilson Peale, of Revolutionary War heroes George Washington, and Samuel Smith.
President John Adams replied to Secretary Wolcott, that he had "no great objection to the marks on the ensign and pendant" proposed by Wolcott. "The yellow color, however," the President commented, "I do not admire." What appeared as yellow in Wolcott’s first design is unknown; the sketch accompanying the letter has yet to be uncovered. Adams left it to his Treasury Secretary "to determine in favor of that (color) or any other you may prefer." The final arrangement determined by Wolcott, and transmitted to the collectors in a Circular Letter dated August 1, 1799, fixed the ensign at "sixteen perpendicular stripes, alternate red and white, the Union of the Ensign to be the Arms of the United States, in dark blue, on a white Field."
With specifications in hand, each collector contracted with local flag makers to furnish the new revenue cutter ensigns. Not until the 1860's were standardized ensigns issued directly from the Treasury Department.
The law, and the adoption of the distinctive flag, were passed to ease ship owners concerns that a ship claiming to be a “Revenue Cutter”, and ordering a merchant vessel to stop, might actually be a Pirate vessel. Congress therefore directed the President to prescribe the special ensign, and provided a $100 fine for its unauthorized use. It also authorized the commanding officer of any Cutter flying the ensign to use deadly force against vessels that failed to heed his instructions. (With minor modifications, this law is still in force: Title 14 - Part I - Chapter 17 - Section 638: Coast Guard ensigns and pennants - (A) Coast Guard vessels and aircraft shall be distinguished from other vessels and aircraft by an ensign, pennant, or other identifying insignia of such design as prescribed by the Secretary. Such ensign, pennant, or other identifying insignia shall be displayed in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary. (B) No vessel or aircraft without authority shall carry, hoist, or display any ensign, pennant, or other identifying insignia prescribed for, or intended to resemble, any ensign, pennant, or other identifying insignia prescribed for Coast Guard vessels or aircraft. Every person violating this subsection shall be fined not more than $5,000, or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both. - Aug. 4, 1949, ch. 393, 63 Stat. 546).
To access U.S. Code Title 14 - 637-639, just go to:
Although originally intended as a Marine Ensign, to be flown from Revenue Cutters and Customs Vessels, the Customs Collectors soon were flying the "Revenue Ensign" over their Customhouses as well. That tradition Became Law a half-century later, when in 1874, Treasury Secretary William A. Richardson required that during business hours, the "Revenue Ensign" (now to be known as the “Customs Ensign”) was to be hoisted by the side of the Stars and Stripes over all Customhouses.
US Flag and Customs Flag
The "Revenue Ensign" would see several design changes from its inception throughout the 1800's.
(Click on any Flag to Enlarge)
There is the Original Design of 1799
Original Revenue Ensign of 1799 (Customs Flag)
The Design Change of 1841
Revenue Ensign of 1841 (Customs Flag)
Then there is the Design Change of 1867
Revenue Ensign of 1867 (Customs Flag)
And finally, the Post 1868 Design
Revenue Ensign Post 1868 (Customs Flag)
When the Coast Guard became an independent bureau of the Treasury Department in 1915, absorbing the duties of the older Revenue Cutter Service, a modification of that ensign was created to distinguish vessels under the newly organized U.S. Coast Guard, and those still employed by the Collectors of the Customs. Precedent for the distinction between the two ensigns was established five years earlier, when President William Howard Taft issued an Executive Order on June 7, 1910, announcing "the flag now used on vessels of the Revenue Cutter Service be marked by the distinctive emblem of that Service, in blue and white . . . over the center of the seventh vertical red stripe." In 1927, Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon, ordered the emblem changed to the official seal of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Thus, the "Revenue Ensign" of 1799
Had now become two separate flags, the “Customs Ensign”, which retained the original design of the "Revenue Ensign";
Customs Ensign - Today
And the “U.S. Coast Guard Ensign”, which would remain the same except for removing the National Arms in the union of the flag and replacing it with the official seal of the U.S. Coast Guard.
US Coast Guard Ensign - Today
The basic design of Oliver Walcott's ensign remained in use by the Customs Service for over 150 years. Nowhere in the US Code, nor anywhere in the Historical Record, is the "Revenue Ensign", the "Customs Ensign", or the “Coast Guard Ensign” ever referred to as the “Civil Flag”.
A quick call to US Customs confirmed my findings. "Yes, the Revenue Ensign of 1799 was the official Flag of the Customs Service for over 150 years. It flew atop Revenue Cutters, as well as Customs Houses. The Ensign was never available for sale or distribution to the Public; and no Federal Agency other than US Customs ever used the Flag. In fact, there were criminal penalties in place for the unauthorized use of the Revenue Ensign by any one other than the US Customs Service - (See: Regulations for the government of the United States Revenue Cutter Service and the Laws Relating to that Service - Appendix - United States Revised Statutes and Statutes at Large: Section 2764 – 4 April, 1894: – Also : C. 22,s. 102, v. 1,P. 700 - 2 March, 1799).
For the history of the Customs Ensign, you can go to the US Customs Web Page at:
To browse the History of US Customs "Revenue Cutters", go to the pages: Cutters of the Revenue Marine and Revenue Cutter Service - 1790-1900
Flags, Logos, Pennants, Seals & Streamers: United States Revenue Marine & Revenue Cutter Service -
First Ten Revenue Cutters -
U. S. Revenue Cutter Service Regulations - 1894 -
PART TWO: THE CREATION OF THE “CIVIL FLAG”
The Theoretical 'Civil Flag' - Flag 1
There are actually Two completely different Flags being proposed as the 'Civil Flag'. The first is the “Revenue Ensign” (and it's later version, the 'Customs Ensign'); adopted on August 1, 1799, to identify the Revenue Cutters of the Customs Service.
Revenue Ensign of 1799 (Customs Flag)
What these 'Revenue Ensign' is the 'Civil Flag' Web Pages Have In Common
Most of the Web Sites claiming that the 'Revenue Ensign' is the 'Civil Flag' have one thing in common: the lack of any substantial evidence to support their claims. They claim there are some old photos of the "Civil Flag', yet they fail to include them. They also claim that the "Civil Flag' is mentioned in a few old books; yet they fail to provide us with a quote from any of the books, or, better yet, a photocopy of a page. And, it appears that most of the evidence they do provide has been taken directly from the US Customs Web Page mentioned above: The Customs Ensign:
Let’s examine this proof a little closer, and see if it corroborates their contention that the Customs Ensign was once known as the ‘Civil Flag'. There are three significant pieces of evidence to examine:
First: A photo of a Customs Ensign (Flag) being raised over the United States Appraiser's Store (Customs House), in Port of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1919. The caption next to the Photo reads: "The original Customs Ensign, flown continuously between 1799 and 1951, is shown in this photograph being raised over the United States Appraiser's Stores at the Port of Pittsburgh, Pa., on July 4, 1919. From left to right: Eli G. Corbly, Messenger; Harold C. Harbison, Examiner; John B. Thomas, Opener & Packer; Charles A. Davis, Inspector; W.S. Bowler, Examiner; and James Houlahen, Appraiser of Merchandise".
Customs Flag - 1919
How does a photo of the Customs Flag being raised over a Customs House prove anything,
other than the Fact that in 1919, US Customs Houses were flying the Customs Ensign?
How is this proof of the existance of the 'Civil Flag?
Second: A Photo of the Customs Flag flying over a US Customs House in Eagle Alaska in 1997.
Again, this piece of Evidence proves nothing more than the fact that the Customs
Flag ('Revenue Ensign') DID and still does fly over US Customs Houses.
How is this proof of the existance of the 'Civil Flag'?
Third: Each Civil Flag Web Page contains this line: “In Nathaniel Hawthorne's book The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850, the introduction, titled 'The Custom House' includes this description: From the loftiest point of its roof, during precisely three and a half hours of each forenoon, floats or droops, in breeze or calm, the banner of the republic; but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of horizontally, and thus indicating that a civil, and not a military post of Uncle Sam's government, is here established".
Again, this was taken directly from the US Customs Web Page, which remarks: “The noted author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who served as customs surveyor at the port of Salem, Massachusetts, from 1846 to 1849, would later suggest the ‘stripes turned vertically, not horizontally, (indicated) a civil, not military, post of Uncle Sam’s government’.”
Now, it's clear from the title alone 'The Custom House', that this is in reference to a Customs Flag flying over a US Customs House. And the US Customs House, being a part of the US Customs Service, at this time were allowed to voluntarily fly this flag. This piece of Evidence proves nothing more than that the Customs Ensign DID fly over US Customs Houses.
But these sites are quick to point out that there is a problem with Nathaniel Hawthorne's quote. As we all now know, the 'Revenue Ensign' has sixteen vertical stripes; yet Hawthorne clearly states " but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically".
The Problem with Nathaniel Hawthorn's Quote
I must say I am intrigued by Nathaniel Hawthorne's quote: "but with the Thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of horizontally". Obviously the Customs Ensign has Sixteen Vertical Stripes, and not Thirteen. Since the Flag that flew over US Customs Houses was the Customs Ensign, and since Nathaniel Hawthorne served as Customs Surveyor at the Port of Salem, Massachusetts, from 1846 to 1849; clearly he should have known how many stripes the flag had, correct? So how do we reconcile the obvious contradiction in the number of vertical stripes? Is this evidence of another flag flying over the Customs House? Possibly a Flag now erased from history? Hardly! Actually, this is the ONLY TRUE piece of evidence the 'Civil Flag' promoters have! But is the mistake in the number of stripes on a flag concrete evidence that a whole other Flag actually once existed? Or, can we find another reason for the mistake in Hawthorn's quote? Maybe Hawthorne was just mistaken? Or maybe Hawthorne was just plain stupid? Or maybe he just never bothered to count the stipes, and assumed there were thirteen, just as the "Stars and Stripes" had thirteen. Not possible you say?
Let me give an example. A Police Officer from a Town in NH pulls over a motorist. The motorist is Licensed to Carry a Handgun in NH, and has his Pistol and permit with him. For some reason, the Officer asks to see the permit. The Officer then complains because the Handgun's serial number is NOT on the man's Permit. The Motorist informs the Officer that the Handgun's serial number is NOT required on a NH Pistol Permit. The Officer then states: "I apologize. I was a Sherriff's Deputy in Vermont for 5 years, and in Vermont I KNOW that the Handgun's serial number is REQUIRED to be on every Permit". Now, for those of you who don't know, Vermont does NOT Require a Permit or License to Carry a Concealed Handgun within the State of Vermont! So, if some Historian were to here of this story 200 years from now, would the Officers statement that "in Vermont I KNOW that the Handgun's serial number is REQUIRED to be on every Permit" be evidence to prove that Vermont required permits to Carry a Handguns back in 2004? Would any respected Historian make such a claim based on this one statement alone? I mean, the Guy was a Police Officer in Vermont for 5 years; surely he knew the Law, right?
Well, just as this Officer should have known the Law, but didn't, and made this mistake; so too Nathaniel Hawthorn, who worked as a Customs Surveyor at a Customs House, and should have known the details of the Customs Flag, but didn't, made this mistake!
Is that what actually happened? I don't know. But it makes a heck of a lot more sense than creating a conspiracy about a Flag that has now been stolen from us and the pages of our History! (BTW: The above story about the motorist and the Police Officer is a TRUE story; taken from the pages of the Summer 2003 Issue of "Firearms and Freedoms" the Publication of Gun Owners of NH).
Also, there is the issue of Hawthorne’s remark that "thus indicating that a civil, and not a military, post of Uncle Sam's government is here established". The Civil Flager’s find this to be compelling evidence in support of their argument; they even underline the words ‘Civil’ and ‘Military’. Does this remark have any significance? Is this Hawthorne confirming that a Civil Flag was flying here? I myself find nothing remarkable about this statement! Hawthorne was merely pointing out that any vessel which entered a Harbor, and who saw the Revenue Ensign flying atop an Installation, would instantly recognize that place as a US Customs House (ie: A Civilian Installation). In fact, many of the Customs Houses flew both the ‘Stars and Stripes’ atop the Revenue Ensign. So, there is no great mystery or big clue here! Hawthorne was merely pointing out that the Revenue Ensign’s unique design made Revenue Cutters and Customs Houses instantly recognizable!
The Evidence that Refutes the 'Revenue Ensign is the Civil Flag' Theory
In March of 1818, Congressman Peter Wendover of New York, rose on the House Floor to speak in support of his Bill, HR-32: "A Bill to Alter the Flag of the United States". HR-32 stated "Providing that from and after the fourth day of July next, the flag of the United States be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be twenty stars, white in a blue field; and that, on the admission of every new State into the Union, one star be added to the Union of the Flag, and that such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission".
Certain parts of Congressman Wendover's Speech in support of this bill are very significant.
"Sir, the importance attached to a National Flag, both in its literal and figurative use, is so universal, and of such ancient origin, that we seldom inquire into the meaning of their various figures, as adopted by other nations, and are in some danger of forgetting the symbolic application of those composing that of our own. Were we now about to devise suitable emblems for a national flag, I doubt not we should see much diversity of sentiment, and perhaps some efforts for local gratification; but I presume we should unite in some general and appropriate figures, referring not to sectional but national objects... Suitable symbols were devised by those who laid the foundation of the Republic; and I hope their children will ever feel themselves in honor precluded from changing these, except so far as necessity may dictate, and with a direct view of expressing by them their original design... The same representative principle was retained and applied when the flag was altered; but experience having shown that a similar extension of numbers throughout, the flag would now be improper and inconvenient. It is worthy the attention of the National Legislature again to consider the subject, and see if it be practical to retain in it the object contemplated by its founders, as pointing to the component parts of the Nation, without losing sight of the original formation of this Government as a Free Republic.... The flag of the United States was altered by law, from thirteen to fifteen Stripes and stars, on the first of May, 1795, to apply to the admission of Vermont and Kentucky into the Union....
Sir, it cannot be deemed desirable, under the existing state of things, in relation to the stripes and stars in the flag, to retain it in its present situation; it is not only inapplicable, but both parts refer to the same thing, and the one is a duplicate of the other; but the alteration proposed will direct the view to two striking facts in our National History, and teach the world an important reality; that Republican Government is not only practical, but that it is also progressive. Is it desirable to produce greater uniformity? Most undoubtedly it is. In the Navy the law is generally conformed to, but it is well known that uniformity does not elsewhere exist. If evidence were wanting, among other and numerous instances, I would refer you to the Flag at this moment waving over the heads of the Representatives of the Nation, and two others in sight, equally the flags of the Government: while the Law directs that the Flag shall contain Fifteen, that on the Hall of Congress, whence laws emanate, has but Thirteen, and those at the Navy Yard and Marine Barracks have each at least Eighteen Stripes. Nor can I omit to mention the flag under which the last Congress sat during its first session, which, from some cause or other unknown to me, had but Nine Stripes. But even that Flag, with all its defects, was entitled to much Honor, for it was not only Striped, but, to use another British cant; it was “Ragged Bunting”, and was the first Flag hoisted on the Hall of Congress, after the proverbial “Bulwark of Religion” had here, in this City, shown its anxious solicitude to promote the useful arts..
If evidence were wanting, among other and numerous instances, I would refer you to the Flag at this moment waving over the heads of the Representatives of the Nation, and two others in sight, equally the flags of the Government: while the Law directs that the Flag shall contain Fifteen, that on the Hall of Congress, whence laws emanate, has but Thirteen, and those at the Navy Yard and Marine Barracks have each at least Eighteen Stripes. Nor can I omit to mention the flag under which the last Congress sat during its first session, which, from some cause or other unknown to me, had but Nine Stripes. But even that Flag, with all its defects, was entitled to much Honor, for it was not only Striped, but, to use another British cant; it was “Ragged Bunting”, and was the first Flag hoisted on the Hall of Congress...
This is the most compelling part of his speech, because here he mentions the 'Revenue Ensign' and it's Vertical Stripes.
"The committee who reported this bill deemed it advisable to direct that the Stripes be Horizontal; this is now the form in use; but it results from example, and not from the act, and would be equally conformable to law, if the Stripes were arranged in a perpendicular direction. There is, indeed, one exception in practice. Under the laws for the collection of impost and tonnage, the Executive has directed that the Cutters and Boats employed in this service (Revenue Cutters Service) shall carry Ensigns and Pennants with Perpendicular (Vertical) Stripes, and other marks of distinction; but this being alterable at the pleasure of the President, forms no objection to the proposition in the Bill... ... Mr. Chairman, I hope this bill will pass, and wish it to pass with much unanimity; not only because I believe it will meet the public approbation, and be best calculated to give sufficient permanency to the form of your flag, but because there yet remains a few, and, indeed, but few, who first nerved their arm to raise this banner of Freedom, and nobly defended it, through carnage and blood, to victory and to peace" - (Speech by Congressman Peter Wendover of New York, in support of his Bill "HR-32: A Bill to Alter the Flag of the United States" - House of Representatives - March 1818).
HR-32 specified that the Stripes on the National Flag would from then on, by Law, be horizontal (since until that time the stripes were horizontal only by choice). Moreover, because the 'Revenue Ensign' already bore Vertical Stripes, it would be impractical (and confusing) to alter the National Flag from Horizontal to Vertical Stripes!
We also have the 'Stars and Stripes' and the 'Revenue Ensign', mentioned together in the SAME Speech! And NO mention of a 'Civil Flag' or of the supposedly seperate 'Civilian' and 'Military' Flags! Only the National Flag, the 'Stars and Stripes'; and the 'Revenue Ensign', the flag of the "Cutters and Boats of the Revenue Marine Service"!
Congressman Wendover also states that at that very moment the National Flag of the United States (Stars and Stripes) was flying above the Capital Building (a Civilian Branch of the Federal Government and a Non-Military Federal Building), as well as the Navy Yard and the Marine Barracks (both Military Installations); the Stars and Stripes flying atop BOTH Civilian AND Military Buildings! Why no mention of a Civil Flag? Because it did not exist!
To read the complete speech by Congressman Wendover, which, by the way, is quite moving, just click on this URL:
The Theoretical 'Civil Flag' - Flag 2
The Other Flag being proposed as the 'Civil Flag' is a Flag for which I can find no documentation, nor historical evidence, to support that it has ever existed.
Other Alleged 'Civil Flag'
Are We Being Deceived Here?
All of the web sites which promote the "White Union with Blue Stars and a field of 16 Vertical Red and White alternating Stripes" Civil Flag, make this Claim:
"Before WWII, no U.S. flag, civil or military, flew within the forty-eight states (except in federal settings); only state flags did".
As I showed earlier, this statement is without a doubt, False! To return there, click the underlined Link (when you are done, click the 'Back' button to return here).
No Evidence of a "Peace Flag"
All of the web sites which promote the "White Union with Blue Stars and a field of 16 Vertical Red and White alternating Stripes" Civil Flag, make this Claim:
"We the People of the United States, actually have two national flags, a military flag and a civil flag for peacetime. They have several important distinctions and meanings".
As I showed earlier, this statement is also not True! To return there, click the underlined Link (when you are done, click the 'Back' button to return here).
An Example of Deception?
I said in the beginning that "there may also be intentional deception on the part of certain Sites". Lets examine one Web Site in particular. They are claiming that a completely different Flag, as depicted below (next to the stars and Stripes), is this 'Civil Flag'. (I can find NO evidence that this flag EVER existed).
It is my opinion that there is deception taking place on this page. To start with, the Page is Riddled with inconsistency and speculation. Remember (from above) the claim made by this site:
"Before WWII, no U.S. flag, civil or military, flew within the forty-eight states (except in federal settings); only state flags did".
I believe the photos I provided above Proved that this statement is completely false. But this site is only getting started!
Lets look to the first two Paragraphs, which start out with: "The people of the United States actually have two national flags: one for our military government and another for the civil. Each one has fifty stars in its canton and thirteen red and white stripes, but there are several important differences. Although most Americans think of the Stars and Stripes (above left) as their only flag, it is actually for military affairs only. The other one, meant by its makers for wider use (peacetime), has vertical stripes with blue stars on a white field (shown above next to Stars and Stripes)".
Here the author is claiming that the "Stars and Stripes" is actually a Military Flag, and this supposed 'Civil Flag' is for Civilian (non-military) purposes. Then, in Paragraph five, they again elude to the "Stars and Stripes" being a Military Flag: "History book publishers contribute to the public's miseducation by always picturing the flag in military settings, creating the impression that the one with horizontal stripes is the only one there is. They don't actually lie; they just tell half the truth. For example, the "first American flag" they show Betsy Ross sewing at George Washington's request, was for the Revolution - of course it was military".
But if we move to Paragraph eight, the author now states: "In the old Westerns, 'Old Glory' (the 'Stars and Stripes') has her stripes running sideways and a military yellow fringe. Most of these films are historically accurate about that; their stories usually took place in the territories still under military law and not yet states". Here the Author is eluding to the now infamous "Law of Admiralty" Flag, or the 'Gold Fringed Stars and Stripes'. Now the Author is telling us that it is the 'Gold Fringed Flag' which denotes Military Rule or Law.
According to this VERY SAME Web Site, (but located on another page), it states: "A gold fringed flag used widely by courts, schools, service organizations and private individuals is NOT a symbol of our constitutional republic, or national Union of States. It signifies a military jurisdictional presence. One official difference between the two flags is that when the fringe is placed around the Flag it denotes a military battle flag, not a National Flag".
So, first the Author of this page claims that the "Stars and Stripes" is a Military Flag and signifies rule under Military Jurisdiction. Then, several paragraphs later, they CHANGE their mind, and tell us that it is actually the "Gold Fringed Flag" that is the Military Flag which signifies rule under Military Jurisdiction. Which one is it? They can't have it both ways! The Author of the other page (The Gold Fringed Flag) goes on to differentiate between the two flags, calling one the 'Military Battle Flag' (Gold Fringed Flag), and the other the 'National Flag' (Stars and Stripes). The Stars and Stripes is now, and has Always been, our National Flag. As for the meaning of the Gold Fringed Flag, I will expand on that towards the end of this article.
But the Author of this page is not done yet. They claim to have (or at least to have seen) an actual Photograph of this supposed 'Civil Flag'. On their site, the fifth paragraph starts with: "It took me two years of digging before I found a picture that matched what he was describing". Now, If they had truly found an actual Photograph of this 'Civil Flag', why in the hell did they not include it on their Web Site? It surely would have been a powerful piece of evidence. The Fifth paragraph then continues with: "my second clue was an original Illuminated History of North America (1860)". Yet the author fails to include anything from this book. Not one page; not one quote, not even one line! A copy of a page, or at least something from this book, would have surely been a powerful piece of evidence! I don't get it. To have such compelling evidence; to have actual confirmation of what you are attempting to prove, and then to just leave it out. Does that sound rational?
(Side Note: The Book "The Illuminated History of North America - (New York - 1860)" does in fact exist. Although I could not find a copy to read, I did find a picture of it at an Auction House. To see the book, just click on the URL: http://www.parkinsonbooks.com/pages/57.html
The fact that they did NOT include the Photo (a compelling piece of evidence), or anything from the book; coupled with the false claims about the US Flag not flying in the 48 States before WWII, and the contradiction about which flag denotes a Military Flag, leads me to believe the Author has created a total Fabrication!
(When you make the claim that there is a second American Flag, a Peace-Time Flag, and that it has been stolen from us, and erased from the pages of our History, you had better be able to provide Substantial Evidence to support those allegations! And if you can't, then you surly have no business making such a claim!)
Sons of Liberty Flag
It appears that some believe that the 'Sons of Liberty Flag' could possibly be the fore-runner to the Civil Flag. This is not the case. This was just one flag out of many flags that were used by the early colonists. The 'Sons of Liberty Flag' came about when angry Colonists joined together to protest against British impositions on American economic freedom. One such protest was resistance to the Stamp Act, on October 7, 1765. A delegate from each of nine colonies formed the "Stamp Act Congress" . They petitioned the king and parliament, the act was repealed on March 18, 1766. It was subsequent to a protest of the Stamp Act, that the Sons of Liberty were formed. They would meet under a particular Elm tree in Boston (known thereafter as "the Liberty Tree"). Later, the British cut the tree down, but the Sons of Liberty replaced it with a Liberty "Pole". Their flag of nine alternating red and white vertical stripes was flown from this pole. On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty protested the British Parliament's Tea Act, an action that became known as the Boston Tea Party. The colonists' believed the tax to be a violation of their legitimate economic liberty. Three and a half years after the Tea Party, the thirteen colonies had come together in their decision to fight for independence, and the nine stripes grew to thirteen, and were turned Horizontal. This flag became known as the"Rebellious Stripes". But these were just two flags out of many Flags that were used prior to and up through the Revolution! What matters is that on June 14, 1777, Congress would come together, and establish an official flag for the new Nation. And that flag is the 'Stars and Stripes'.
Nine Stripe - Sons of Liberty Flag
Thirteen Stripe - Rebellious Stripes
Early American Flags
As I stated earlier, an Excellent Source for early American Flags is, believe it or not, Auction House Web-Sites. I have seen literally Thousands of Historic American Flags of all types, shapes, and sizes, dating as far back as 1775. These are flags that have been held by Families, and handed down from Generation to Generation. Dozens of versions of the 'Stars and Stripes'; Civil War Flags of every kind; even 'Revenue Cutter' Flags. But guess what? NOT ONE 'Civil Flag'!!!!!
General Schuyler's Flag - 1803
This flag is known as 'General Schuyler's Flag'. The Original can be seen at Independence National Historical Park. Although consistently dated by experts to the period "after 1784," it should be noted the shield on the US Arms bears 17 pales, the correct number for the period 1803-1812, which is why the Flag most likely dates from this later period. The Flag has a heavy red fringe around three sides. The union bears a striking resemblance to the union of the 'Revenue Ensign'; although the union on the 'Revenue Ensign' is white. Also, this flag has thirteen Horizontal stripes, as opposed to the 'Revenue Ensign', which had sixteen vertical stripes.
The point is, there were many types of flags being made for both military use by soldiers and for personal use by private citizens, a practice that survived up through and into the early 1900's. Here are two examples of someone's own interpretation of the Revenue and Maritime Ensigns, dating from 1859 and 1862.
Civil War era American Maritime Flag
Civil War era Revenue Cutter Flag
But that in no way means that the 'General Schuyler's Flag', nor any other ensign, was ever considered the Peacetime Flag of the United States; regardless of whether for Military or Civilian purposes!
Now, there is the possibility that a flag, as described by these sites, with Thirteen Vertical Stripes and a White Canton with Blue Stars, did exist. It was not uncommon in the period between the late 1700's up through the mid 1800's for people to have special Flags made to their own liking.
In fact, it was not until the 1860's that the Officially designed 'Revenue Ensign' was issued directly from the Treasury Department. Before this date, Every Customs Collector had to contract with local flag makers to furnish them with the new Revenue Cutter Ensigns. That would not substantiate the claim, however, that a flag known as the 'Civil Flag' was flown by the People of America for 85 years, and has been stolen from us, and erased from the pages of our history!
The Title to this Web-Page asked the question: "Forgotten Flag, or Flag of Fiction"?
I believe the evidence clearly shows the 'Civil Flag' is a flag of Fiction!
Conclusions Based on the Evidence:
What it all boils down to, in the end, is that the claims made by these Web Sites, of a conspiracy to erase all traces of the 'Civil Flag' from our History, have no basis in fact. There is nothing in the Historical Records to substantiate these claims; Nothing in the Governments Records; Nothing in the Photographic Records; and Nothing in the Print Media Archives (Newspapers, Magazines, and Books). I know they all claim that: "it's existence has been left as a mystery in a few old photographs and a rare mention in classic books". If this is true, and they have actually seen this evidence, why is it that not even ONE site can provide us with just ONE of these supposed old Photographs, nor a copy of a page or an actual quote from one of these classic books! Why would you leave out your most compelling proof?
And even if they did have an old photograph, would that alone be conclusive proof that the 'Civil Flag' existed? It was very common in the period of the late 18th through the early 19th Century for People to have their own version of the 'Stars and Stripes' made special just for them.
An Authority on Flags Gives His Opinion:
Noted Flag Authority, and Editor of the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) News, David Martucci, had this to say on the NAVA Web Site about the supposed Civil Flag: "There is a rumor floating in virtual space that such a flag existed and that it's disappearance 'proves' the US is suffering under illegal martial law. This is nonsense. They claim the proof of the flag's existence is a passage in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter', published in 1850. The introduction, titled The Custom House, includes this description: 'From the loftiest point of its roof, during precisely three and a half hours of each forenoon, floats or droops, in breeze or calm, the banner of the republic; but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of horizontally, and thus indicating that a civil, and not a military post of Uncle Sam's government, is here established'. This is, of course, a writer's interpretation of the flag that is authorized to fly from each and every Custom House, the US Customs Ensign, which you have described as the U.S. Coast Guard Ensign 1799-1910 (which it also was since the Coast Guard was at that time a part of the Customs Service). Some early renditions of the flag show only stars instead of the blue eagle and blue stars on the white canton, but officially it has always been 16 (not 13 because it was adopted in 1799, before the flag settled out with 13 stripes) vertical red and white stripes with a white canton bearing a blue eagle and 16 blue stars usually arranged in an arc over the top of the eagle. The eagle bears a shield of the US on its breast (13 white and red pales with a blue chief). This flag is still used today and, with the addition of the USCG seal in the center of the fly, is still used by the Coast Guard. Since 1777, the only official US Flag for civilian or military or any other use has been the good old stars and stripes that we are all familiar with. Don't let yourself get hornswoggled!" (You can access the North American Vexillological Association's Web Site at: http://www.nava.org/navahome.htm)
As a matter of fact, the North American Vexillological Association has an excellent web page tracing the history of dozens of different variations of the 'Stars and Stripes', dating from the late 1700's. Just go to: http://www.vexman.net/13stars/
(Note: I actually e-mailed David Martucci, and asked Dave to go over this web page, and reply with any comments. Dave sent this reply: "Overall good job. Ever thought of publishing this in the vexillological press?")
Do We Need Another Flag; Real or Imagined?
In spite of the fact that there is no historical evidence to suggest that the 'Civil Flag' ever existed, they are being manufactured today, and sold over the Internet. There are those in the Constitutional Rights Movement who are of the opinion that we should adopt this 'Civil Flag' as our new Ensign; to symbolize our commitment to restoring our Unalienable Rights, and the legitimate system of Constitutional Government as outlined in the Constitution.
I am against this idea for several reasons!
First: The 'Stars and Stripes' has been the National Flag of the United States since its adoption by the 2nd Continental Congress in June of 1777; it (and not the 'Civil Flag') is the Flag given to us by the Founding Fathers. It (and not the 'Civil Flag') is the Flag that was revered in the days of the Revolution; when the blood of our fore-fathers profusely flowed, to procure for us a rich inheritance. It (and not the 'Civil Flag') is the Flag that stood watch over the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention, as they worked tirelessly to give us a government based upon the principles of Rights, Freedom, and Liberty. It (and not the 'Civil Flag') is the Flag that flew above the Halls of the new Congress as they convened to give us a Bill of Rights. It is the 'Stars and Stripes' (and not the 'Civil Flag') that stood proudly as our new Nation, a Nation established on the principle of the Natural Rights of every individual, was born!
Second: For the Past 227 years, it has been the 'Stars and Stripes' (and not the fictional Civil Flag) that has flown above the Sailors on our Navy's Ships! For the past 170 years it has been the 'Stars and Stripes' (and not the fictional Civil Flag) that has led our Brave Soldiers into battle; "those who nerved their arm to raise this banner of Freedom, and nobly defended it, through carnage and blood, to victory and to peace. It has been the signal of Victory on the Land, of successful Valor on the Lakes, and waived triumphantly on the Ocean".
Third: For the past 170 years, whenever one of these Soldiers or Sailors has fallen in battle, paying the ultimate price by giving their life in the defense of our Freedom and Liberty, it has been the 'Stars and Stripes' (and not the fictional Civil Flag) that has covered and adorned their remains. Irregardless of the government's motives behind each war, every soldier who has fought and died in battle has done so with only one objective: to secure and defend the Liberties and Freedoms of each and Every American!
(Military Funeral Customs - The practice of draping the casket with the national flag: This custom began sometime during the years between 1796 and 1815. The dead carried from the field of battle were covered with flags. When the U.S. flag covers the casket, it is placed so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder. It is not placed in the grave and is not allowed to touch the ground - From the United States Army - Military District of Washington - Web Site, at:
To sum things up: The 'Stars and Stripes' is our ONLY National Flag! Since its adoption in 1777, it has represented the People who burst the bands of oppression, and achieved Independence! It is the foundation of our Free Republic, and the Guardian of oppression! It is the Banner of Freedom and Liberty.
I believe I have proven beyond a doubt, that the claims of the existence of a "Civil Flag" or "Flag of Peace", to be false, inaccurate, and based on erroneous and/or misleading information. This has been a long, tiring, and sometimes monotonous journey into finding the truth behind the 'Civil Flag'. But I have broadened my knowledge in many areas of Early American History during this whole process; so it was well worth it! I have learned one very valuable lesson in all this; it seems there are those on our side of the Constitutional Battle, who are just as willing as those other side of the Battle, to mislead and lie if necessary, to achieve their ends! I hope I have shown, by my meticulous research, that I am not one of those!
© 2005 Northwdsnh
Here I will list just a few of the places I have been to research this piece: the American Memory Historical Collections Archives (including photographs, manuscripts, rare books, maps, recorded sound, and moving pictures - dating from the 1830's), the New York Public Library's On-Line Research Library, Numerous Museum Archives, Art Collections, Commercial Shipping Records dating from the 1790's, the Find-Law Web-Site, Civil War Archives, the GPO-Access Government Web-Site, the US Code and the Federal Register, Cornell University Law Archives, US Army Regulations, and The Library of Congress, including: Journals of the Continental Congress (1774-89); the Letters of Delegates to Congress (1774-89); the Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, or Farrand's Records, and the Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (1787-88) (aka the Elliot's Debates); the Journals of the House of Representatives (1789-1875) and the Senate (1789-1875), including the Senate Executive Journal (1789-1875); the Journal of William Maclay (1789-91), senator from Pennsylvania in the 1st Congress; the debates of Congress as published in the Annals of Congress (1789-1824), the Register of Debates (1824-37), Congressional Globe (1833-73), and Congressional Record (1873-75); the Statutes at Large (1789-1875); the American State Papers (1789-1838); and congressional bills and resolutions for selected sessions beginning with the 6th Congress (1799) in the House of Representatives and the 16th Congress (1819) in the Senate. A partial Bibliography is included at the end. There is no way I could provide the reader with all of the places I have been! That would have taken a whole web page itself!
This is only a partial Listing of the Web Pages I visited during my research! Please note, that many of the URL's below are Main Pages (Starting Points), and I visted as many as 100 interior pages at many of them! (Note: These URL's can not be clicked on to open them in a new window. You must highlight, copy, and paste the URL into your Browser's Address Area).
Last revised: October 20, 2005
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