Flag believed to be 185 years old to be auctioned Sunday

Thursday, September 30th 2004, 11:50 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Jeff Briley of the Oklahoma Museum of History says he's astounded by some of the objects of American history found in the state _ including a 21-star flag estimated to be 185 years old.

The flag was discovered last month inside a cedar chest in an Oklahoma City area home. It is to be auctioned Sunday at a local motel.

Flags of similar age have brought between $4,600 to nearly $15,000 at auction houses around the country.

The flag was found rolled inside discolored tissue paper at an undisclosed residence after a death. The owners want to remain anonymous, according to Lyn Livingston, a certified appraiser of fine arts and antiques who will supervise the auction of the flag and 350 other items.

She says the age of the flag is undeniable.

``We first looked at the type of material and studied the stitches very carefully,'' she said. ``It has up to 20 stitches per inch and the material is silk that is the same type of silk used in that period.

``The fringe is the same type used then also. It's the same stitching of other needlework of that time frame,'' she said.

Livingston said the family that owns the flag has no record of its origin, but told her their deceased mother and aunt often shopped for antiques.

James Monroe was president when the 21-star flag became the fourth official U.S. flag on July 4, 1819 after a star was added recognizing the admission of Illinois to the union.

The flag became obsolete the next Independence Day when two more stars were added to recognize the admissions of Alabama and Maine.

The flag measures 3 feet by 2 feet and is hand-stitched on silk and features a silk fringe and gold leaf stars in a star pattern.

``This is quite an extraordinary find,'' said Briley.

``About the time you think you've seen it all, someone will call and tell you about something else they've found,'' he said.

Briley said the buyer of the flag will bear a certain responsibility for its preservation. ``Objects reach a point beyond which you can think of them as a personal possession,'' he said. ``Whoever ends up with it will be its steward for the next generation.''