One of the first flags to ever be flown in connection to the United States of America is being auctioned off in order to start an endowment for the University of Texas's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The flag, known as the Forster Flag, is a crimson square featuring thirteen small white bars in the upper left hand corner (six on one side and seven on the other). It is regarded as the first flag ever made to represent America as an independent nation. As such, the flag is very much the centerpiece of the university's collection. It is hoped that whoever wins the flag at auction will donate or at least loan it back so that the Center may keep its most valuable piece. Whether or not the buyer will be so gracious remains to be seen.
The birth of America
Before the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, most flags were representative of local militias and not the country as a whole. The Forster Flag was one of these until 1775 when it was altered to be representative of the 13 newly independent American colonies. During that year, in what can be seen as a metaphor for the geopolitical situation of the time, the British insignia was removed and replaced with 13 white stripes. The historical significance of this piece cannot be overstated. Consequently, it is hoping to fetch more than $3 million when it goes to auction.
Auctioning off to keep it
Given the flag's importance in the history of the American nation, the Flag Heritage Foundation – the current owners of the piece – are hoping to auction it off without having to give it away. Their ideal outcome would be the flag's purchase by a wealthy philanthropist who would be willing to allow the flag to remain on display. Unfortunately, should another museum grab up the piece, it is likely that it will want the flag for its own collection. This really turns up the stakes at the auction, as the sellers stand to gain the money to build a new facility while losing the main attraction that it would house.
Whether or not the Whitney Smith Flag Research Center Collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas will be able to keep its crown jewel remains to be seen. In the meantime, American history enthusiasts can head over to iCollector to place their bids on pieces at upcoming antiques auctions from around the world.