Schenectady Historical Society flag

Notes on the Schenectady Historical Society flag

The Schenectady Historical Society has a Liberty flag from 1774. The flag was recently mounted by a conservator and is in a large frame on the third floor landing of the historical society.

There has been a desire in the 2nd Albany to recreate this flag, and, to this end, a gaggle of us went and viewed the flag one Wednesday eveing. The Schenectady Historical Society graciously allowed us to come after their normal hours. These notes are based on this visit, including comments by Jennifer Richard-Morrow and David Manthey.

First of all, see the dimensioned drawing. All dimensions are in inches.

It is very likely that the flag was originally square. It has a hoist (vertical dimension) of 44 inches. It currently has a fly (horizontal dimension) of around 39 inches, though the edges, especially the right, are quite worn and somewhat ragged. David's best guess is that around 7 inches of the right edge have disintegrated, so in the dimensioned drawing, the horizontal dimension should be around 46.25 or 46.5, which, once the sleeve is around a pole, would leave 44 x 44 for the finished size of the flag.

The flag is silk. One could see a few tiny slubs in the weave, implying that it wasn't the absolute highest grade of silk. It is worn extremely thin and the weave looks slightly wavey. It isn't obvious (to Jen) if it was a plain weave or a twill. The bottom edge had a rolled hem. The flag has what looks like the remnents of a sleeve on the left side.

The center of the flag bears the word LIBERTY, The letters were applicaed in white and sewed on in a white running stitch. The white is actually a dingy tan now. We could see by close examination that there were no stitches on the back. No one could have matched up reverse lettering so precisely so it looks like the letters are only on one side.

The individual letters are made of multiple pieces of cloth, such that the serifs are pieced separately from the letter bodies. For example, the letter Y consisted of five pieces of cloth, three for the serifs, one for the right wing, and one for the left wing and stem. The construction of the letters eliminates many of the internal corners. This makes it easier to sew and increases durability. The piecing isn't obvious from a distance.

The font looks to David like someone's best attempt at reproducing in cloth a typical capital roman font from the James or Frye foundry (nearly identical to Caslon except for a slightly more swash R). This was a common font for things like newspapers, and was fairly widespread.

The overall color is a medium brown. There are a couple of stains (water stains?) that make a dark blue line. Other than that, there is no indication of original color; it's just brown all over. The brown suggests faded logwood to Jen, but she doesn't claim expertise.

The historical Society is still waiting for the conservator's written report which may tell us more.

Here is a drawing of the flag with what are probably the original dimensions.

And here are some pictures of the finished recreation that David Manthey made of silk. The lettering is handsewn on, and the letters were cut out the same as the original.

All Done