Library Catalog - Kentucky Historical Society

Object Record

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Object Name Flag
Catalog Number 1976.110.33a
Maker Hugh Wilkins
Date ca. 1863
Material(s) Silk
Dimensions H-68 W-76 inches
Description This is the National Color of the 21st Kentucky Volunteer Infantry. It has six red stripes (no evidence of 7th stripe) and six white stripes. There is a blue canton with white five-point stars. The regimental name is painted on the fourth red stripe. There is a bag with tacks and remnants of the flag as well.
Notes ID as manufactured by "Wilkins" Louisville, KY. A note in the bag with the tacks (see accessories) indicates that flag makers used several methods to attach flags to staffs. (This info appears to be from a previous exhibit in which the tacks were displayed, maybe Kentucky Colors.) Hugh Wilkins of Louisville tacked each flag to the staff either by using the leading edge of the inner sleeve or by simply adding a one-inch strip of cotton tape to reinforce the hoist or leading edge of the flag, and then tacking that to the staff. Some other KY union flags show decorative metallic or bullion tape on the reinforce hoist edge. Confederates used similar methods, but the use of a sleeve into which the staff was slid before tacking was most common. Fabric ties were used as well often sewn into a reinforced hoist edge (see 1st KY Cavalry, CSA). Some flags used cords or leather ties running through stitched eyelets in the hoist edge hem.

Some of our Civil War era flags are in terrible shape. A big reason for this is how they were originally made. Harsh dyes used to color fabrics (especially silk) resulted in the material breaking apart and shattering. Painted areas typically remain more intact but paint does not allow free movement of the fabric and thus contributes to the fracturing of adjacent areas.

Ironically wool and cotton flags, which were less expensive to produce, are far more stable than silk flags. These flags in our collection remain largely intact and in far better condition than their silk counterparts.

Many of the Civil War era flags in our collection cannot be physically displayed without causing further damage. KHS stores flags flat in a stable environment. Our goal is to slow the deterioration as much as possible.
Collection KHS Museum Collection
Event American Civil War
People Wilkins, Hugh
Subjects Flags
Civil wars
Search Terms Civil War
Civil War flags
Flag remnants
Physical Holder Kentucky Historical Society - KHS