Flag Days — Caring for my Great-Grandfather Barnard’s Flag

A few years ago I received the flag that was placed on my Great-Grand­fa­ther Barnard’s cas­ket when he died. He fought in World War I and was a POW, twice. The flag hadn’t been prop­er­ly cared for, stuffed into an old card­board box that was too small to hold it, along with a sheet of paper describ­ing how to prop­er­ly care for the flag, and who is enti­tled to one at their funer­al.

The doc­u­ment is cer­tain­ly pre-World War II, as it made men­tion of World War I, but noth­ing else. Dis­col­ored with age, and some­what brit­tle due to acid con­tent, the paper, in con­junc­tion with the ancient card­board box, had stained the flag.

For sev­er­al years I tried to fig­ure out the best way to remove the stains with­out harm­ing the flag itself, which is at least 50 and per­haps as many as 90 years old. I want­ed to safe­ly remove the stains, have it prop­er­ly fold­ed and put it into a flag case. I tried con­tact­ing the Cleve­land Muse­um of Art to talk to a spe­cial­ist in tex­tile preser­va­tion, scout­ed around online & even Asked MetaFil­ter. I read forums on flag eti­quette and ran across some some­what “extreme” views on what con­sti­tutes des­e­cra­tion of the flag (e.g. wash­ing it peri­od). I didn’t find any­thing con­clu­sive or even some­what help­ful in deal­ing with a flag of advanced age.

So I washed it. And the stains came out! And I when I spread it on my bed to dry, it cov­ered the whole bed, and then some. And I called my mom to tell her about it, and she asked how many stars were on it. And there are only 48 stars on it! 6 rows of 8.

I end­ed up hav­ing to fold it myself, and I did a pret­ty good job at it. The flag case I got for it was too large though & then the glass in it broke. I still don’t have some­thing to prop­er­ly put it in for dis­play or stor­age. But I feel a lot bet­ter know­ing that it has been suc­cess­ful­ly cleaned and is prop­er­ly fold­ed.

One Reply

  • Shalom Adam,

    You are in pos­s­e­sion of a very pre­cious gift. I’m glad you are treat­ing it with the respect it, your great grand­fa­ther and the flag deserve.

    Two thoughts on the doc­u­men­ta­tion you found. Did you mean to say that it was post-WW II? My read indi­cates that that is the case based on two items:

    First, the doc­u­ment ref­er­ences the Air Force. Pri­or to WW II, our air forces were known as the Army Air Corps.

    Sec­ond, pri­or to WW II, the 1914 war was known as The Great War.



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