This flag has been at the museum since 1934. When we identified it for exhibit use last year it was clear the 157 year old flag needed some care. There was extensive shredding and areas of loss that made it difficult to exhibit and care for. To exhibit the flag safely, while also considering preservation, the piece needed conservation. A highly trained specialist worked on the flag. They supported the flag by hand stitching nylon tulle around the stripes to stabilize the fabric.
How Did We Identified the Flag?
This flag is believed to be the last flag to fly over Fort Howard. We were able to confirm this by putting together clues from different sources.
- First was the writing on the upper left hand star: "From Major Shaylor, Old Fort Howard during the War, 1865."
- Second, is an excerpt from History of Brown County by Deborah Martin that re-caps an event that took place at the Fort Howard in 1861. Martin mentions Mattie Underwood as the maker of the flag which matches the name in museum records. Martin also mentions Major Shaylor as “the venerable custodian of this ancient stronghold"-the same name on the flag.
- Third is the style of the flag. The 34 stars represent the 34 states of the Union from 1861 to 1865 under President Abraham Lincoln. This canton design is in the “The Great Star” style. This pattern was used in the 1800s but died out after the Civil War. All these clues provided enough information to confirm this is the Fort Howard flag.
What is Fort Howard? (Hint: Not a paper company)
The U.S. Army arrived on the shores of the Fox River in August 1816, two years before Brown County became a county. They established Fort Howard, changing the dynamic of the community and influencing what it is today. Fort Howard operated until 1852 when it was de-commissioned. In the following years a volunteer infantry used the site under the care of Major Shaylor. On May 3, 1861 President Lincoln made a speech calling for volunteers to join the Union Army. On May 18th, people of Green Bay and the surrounding areas put together a special event at Fort Howard. It supported Lincoln’s call and included the raising of this impressive flag. During the Civil War soldiers trained at Fort Howard before leaving for the South. Eventually, Chicago & North Western Railroad bought the land and the buildings were officially de-commissioned in 1872.
Ready for Exhibit
After all of this work on the flag and research we’re ready to share the flag with you! This remarkable artifact will be a centerpiece in the upcoming exhibit Our Brown County. Experience it for yourself starting May 29th!