Historical flag part of display

PARKERSBURG – A local collector of West Virginia memorabilia shared a rare sight this week, as a 35-star U.S. flag from the time of West Virginia’s statehood was unfurled at Court Square.

Wood County Circuit Judge J.D. Beane said he and his father have always been interested in West Virginia history and the historic 35-star flag, which is showing its age with thinning fabric and some tears, was part of the memorabilia collection.

“I’ve always been all about West Virginia,” Beane said. The judge has a copy of a Harper’s Illustrated newspaper dated June 20, 1863, and glassware collected at West Virginia’s 100th birthday celebration.

Beane said he and his father plan to carry the 35-star flag with them to Charleston for today’s West Virginia celebration of the state’s 150th anniversary.

“Even though it’s no longer used, it still remains an official flag and can still be properly flown,” Beane said.

By law a star is added to the flag on July 4 after a new state is admitted. No U.S. flag ever becomes obsolete. Each flag is still a legal flag and may be flown at any time.

The embroidered star fields on the flags started in the early 1960s, prior to that they were applique or painted on.

The U.S. flag has undergone a number of changes over the years, once appearing in January 1776 with 13 alternating red and white strips representing the original 13 colonies and a British Union Jack in a square in the upper left corner.

In June of 1777 the Continental Congress adopted a resolution stating the flag would have 13 stripes and 13 stars.

During the Civil War, the flag evolved several times.

At the beginning of 1861, the flag had 33 stars. On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union, and a star was added, for a total of 34. The new 34-star flag became official on July 4, 1861. The flag had four rows of seven stars, and the center row had six stars.

On June 20, 1863, when West Virginia became a state, another star was added. This 35-star flag had five rows of seven stars. This flag flew over union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and was the flag when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

During the Civil War, stars were not removed from the U.S. flag as Confederate states seceded from the Union. The federal government did not recognize the legality of the secession and would not acknowledge it with a removal of stars from the flag. The southern states were not represented in Congress during those years, but their stars remained on the flag.