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1222801

Presidential Flag

 

A rare hand-embroidered presidential standard from the administration of President George H. W. Bush

This is an official presidential flag that dates from the administration of President George H. W. Bush.

Presidential flags are stunning works of art.  They are hand-embroidered by employees of the Defense Logistics Agency, an agency of the Department of Defense, in Philadelphia.  It takes two seamstresses, sewing in tandem, 45 days to embroider one flag.  The stars are embroidered in white silk thread, and the presidential coat of arms is embroidered in red, white, blue, silver, yellow, gold, and various shades of green and brown.  The embroidery is so carefully done that the front and back sides of the flag are identical (except that the olive branch and arrows are in opposite talons and the eagle’s head faces the opposite direction).  The hand-knotted, metalized gold-and-silver fringe is used exclusively on the presidential flag.  The current metalized yarn replicates the actual gold-and-silver bullion fringe used for the President in 1898.

Heraldics supervisor Lisa Vivino was quoted as saying that these flags are the “pride and joy” of the ladies who create them.  While the agency creates flags for others, its “primary function,” she said, “is the presidential and vice presidential flag, which we make by hand for the White House.”

The Defense Logistics Agency is the successor to a long line of military departments that have manufactured flags for the military, the President, the Vice President, and others since the 1850s.  It began as the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia in 1800 and originally functioned as a quartermaster to outfit the military.  In 1926, the arsenal was renamed the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot.  In 1965, it was reorganized as the Defense Personnel Support Center. It was renamed the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia in 1993, and it became the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support in 2010.

According to Flag Making Tradition at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, a 1950s-era article by Depot Historian John V. Haggard,

Despite the progress achieved by American industry and the ingenuity of the Depot flag makers, no machine has yet been devised that can equal the artistry of the people in the Embroidery Section of the Depot Factory.  It would be practically impossible to achieve by machine the fine shading and color blending that is accomplished by hand.  The realistic effect of such artistic detail as the eagle's feathers cannot yet be stamped on silk as deftly by machine as by the hands of the many experts in the Embroidery Section, some of whom have had as much as a quarter of a century of embroidery experience.  Many of the flags and colors made by these artists require a skill of the highest order.  Such flags as the one for the President of the United States, those for Cabinet members, certain foreign countries, and the regimental colors with their intricate and individually adopted coats of arms, scrolls, crests, and other details demand the most painstaking effort on the part of the embroiders of the Depot Factory.

Click here to view a Fox News video report about how these flags are made.

The tag inside the pole sleeve on this flag shows that the flag was manufactured at the Defense Personnel Support Center.  It shows that the flag is made of rayon, with fringe, and shows the government contract number.  It bears the handwritten date “2-5-92” and the handwritten notation “P.B.,” which presumably refers to President Bush.  The date is consistent with the name “Defense Personnel Support Center,” which did not change until 1993.

This is a 3’x 4’ flag.  It hangs less than 2’ from the floor on a 10’ staff.  Its size is such that it was likely used at press conferences or aboard Air Force One.  A larger size hangs in the Oval Office, which has an 18½’ ceiling.

The photographs of this flag do not do it justice.  One really must see the flag in person to appreciate the quality and beauty of its artwork.

These flags are extremely rare in private hands, due not only to their official nature but also to their limited manufacture and distribution.  This would be beautiful displayed alongside presidential autographs or other presidential memorabilia.

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