This is an on-line version of the report prepared in January 1997 by Robert B. Bradley, Curator, Special Collections, Alabama Department of Archives and History. The report is supplemented by color images of the flags when an image is available. Researchers may order a copy of the flag photographs using the photograph order form. Reproduction of any image (including downloading files for reproduction on the internet) requires the submission of a permission to publish form and proper citation of the source.
Founded in 1901, the Alabama Department of Archives and History is the oldest state archives in the United States. The founder and first director Thomas McAdory Owen was particularly concerned with gathering and preserving materials related to Alabama's role in the formation of the Confederate States of America and the subsequent War Between the States. Owen was especially concerned with preservation of the flags of the various Alabama commands. In fact, in Circular Number 2, dated March 2, 1902 Owen asked that, "all flags, banners, guidons, markers, or emblems," be donated to the Department for "permanent preservation in its collections." Owen was very successful in his efforts and in the years since his death in 1920, Confederate flags (and other Alabama related flags) have continued to be acquired by the Department.
Unfortunately, over the years the flags in the Department's collection have suffered from various "agents of deterioration." Uncontrolled temperature, humidity, exposure to ultra-violet light and acidic environment, as well as improper storage and display techniques have taken their toll on the collection. Since 1986, when the flags were removed from display, steps have been taken to remedy this situation. Begun in 1989, a Flag Conservation Project has resulted in improved storage and display techniques, as well as providing funding for much needed conservation. A vital part of this project has been an effort to correctly identify and document each flag.
Information concerning the flags in the Department's collection had over the years been lost, misplaced, destroyed, matched with the wrong flag or incorrectly interpreted. The small amount of Department generated research which made it into print resulted in further confusion and the release of incorrect information. Some of these colorful tales have worked their way into the State's folklore and have even been printed in textbooks and the State statistical register. The purpose of this report is to correct these errors and to ensure that the documentary support concerning each flag is properly recorded. Each provenance reconstruction is intended to document a flag from the time of manufacture until acquisition by the Department. Additionally, any activities or conservation work done since the flag was acquired, is also recorded. The provenance reconstructions were formatted so that information on individual flags could be referenced easily. If a flag was captured, this information has been included in the reconstruction, however, the dramatic details concerning the capture have not. All accounts concerning the details of individual captures which appear in the Official Records have been copied and are included in the object files which have been established on each flag. Also included in the files are copies of all primary and secondary sources which have been located. Finally, each file contains forms completed by textile conservator Fonda Thomsen during the survey of the collection in August 1990. These forms contain additional information concerning the measurements, construction techniques and condition of each flag.
It is hoped that this report will not only preserve the information concerning the flags, but will foster additional interest in preserving these fragile reminders of Alabama's military traditions. However, it must be remembered that the flags are a small part of a very large and significant collection. This collection is representative of the material culture of the people who have lived in this state since prehistoric times. While great strides have been made in curatorial management, your support of the Friends of the Archives would allow further improvements.
Continue on to the Flag index.|