Historical museum’s 41-star U.S. flag preservation nears finish

This unique 41-star flag came into the Salamanca Area Historical Society and Museum’s possession in 2009, and a project to preserve and protect it is nearing the finish line.

SALAMANCA — Efforts by the Salamanca Area Historical Society and Museum to preserve and protect an unique 41-star American flag are nearing completion, but community support is needed for the finish.

The 1889 flag was found in a cupboard in the basement of Our Lady of Peace Church on Broad Street when renovation work was being done about a decade ago, according to Salamanca City Historian James K. Griffith.

The flag was given to the city’s historical society in 2009 by the Rev. Peter Zacynski, although no one knows how, when or why the flag came to be in the church.

“I did not realize the significance of this flag until I started at the museum in January, and when I learned the history I was amazed,” Griffith recounted.

The 140-plus-year-old flag represented Montana becoming the 41st state on Nov. 8, 1889, Griffith explained. A 41-star flag is rare and unique because on Nov. 11, 1889, Washington was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state, so the museum’s flag was only in effect for three days.

The flag is quite large and has fringe and braiding and may have been intended for ceremonial purposes. Flag experts contacted by the museum staff have indicated there may be only four or five flags like this in existence, Griffith said.

“It has been a long term goal of the Museum Board of Directors to properly preserve and protect this national treasure, and it looks like we are well on our way,” he said.

Griffith said the museum is contracting with a professional framer who does work for the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and who is well versed in how to properly protect the flag.

“We feel that a flag of this rarity should be available for our visitors to see and we believe it could be a focal point of our museum collection,” he added.

Plans include the creation of a shadow box frame and using acid-free backing and cloth to mount the flag, Griffith explained. No glue would be used. The frame will include museum grade (UV) glass and the flag will be protected from insects and exposure to sunlight. The framed flag will be mounted horizontally on an interior wall of the museum and will be illuminated.

“A project like this is very expensive and the total cost will be around $6,000,” Griffith said. “An appeal was sent out to businesses and community members that has resulted in over $4,500 in donations, including a check for $1,000 from our local VFW.”

The American Legions in Salamanca and Randolph have also contributed and many have made donations as a memorial, Griffith said, but the museum is also looking for community support.

“We need help from the public to complete his project,” he added.

Donations from the public to help complete this project and may be sent to the Salamanca Area Historical Society and Museum, 125 Main Street, Salamanca, NY 14779. All donations are tax deductible.

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