Spring brings a very exciting opportunity for the Briscoe Center—the Forster Flag auction. The Forster Flag is one of 30 Revolutionary-era flags known to have survived and the only one not in a museum or institution. It is likely to be the final one ever offered for sale. The flag is owned by the Flag Heritage Foundation, which will use the proceeds from the auction to establish an endowment at the Briscoe Center. The endowment will support a curator for the center’s Whitney Smith Flag Research Center Collection.
I’m obviously delighted by this opportunity. The center acquired the Smith Collection last year. It includes the contents of the Flag Research Center, created in 1962 and directed by Whitney Smith, widely recognized as the foremost expert in vexillology, the study of flags and their historical significance.
The center was home to thousands of books, charts, pamphlets, serials, clippings, and flags, as well as troves of associated memorabilia. Migrating the collection from Boston took a crew of twelve people four days to pack into two 53-foot trailers.
However, one item did not come to Texas: the Forster Flag. Loaned to the Flag Research Center in the 1970s, the Forster Flag became its centerpiece. Upon the Briscoe Center’s acquisition of the Smith Collection, the Forster Flag reverted to its owner, the Flag Heritage Foundation.
The auction will provide permanent support to flag research at the Briscoe Center. However, we are hoping that the person who purchases the Forster Flag will donate it to the Briscoe Center, where it will continue to serve as the centerpiece of the Smith Collection and also as a cornerstone of the entire archive.
Doyle New York will auction the flag on April 9, 2014, in New York City. Prior to the auction, it will be shown at a series of events in Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York. It will also be available for private viewing by appointment. Please contact Peter Costanza, Doyle New York, at 212-427-2730, ext. 248, to make arrangements to view the flag.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History