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New Acquisitions

137-year-old Flag

A precious and historic, hand-sewn, 137-year-old American flag that has been missing for more than thirty years at the Brookings County Museum in Volga, has been found. The 18 by 13 feet flag was hand-made in 1882 by Mrs. A. H. Kinyon, Mrs. Ben Roddle and Mrs. William Roddle in Wilton, MN. They later brought it to Bruce, Dakota Territory. Even when folded in the triangular, military style fold, the flag is huge. Its triangular folded base is 44 inches and the equal sides are 30 inches. The flag, with its carefully stitched 36 stars, was brought to Bruce by Mrs. Kinyon in 1884, five years before South Dakota became a state. Each of the 36 stars is five and one-half inches from one star point to the point opposite. The stars are applied on a blue cloth by the process known as appliqué.


The edge of each star is finely stitched with six stitches to the inch and an unusual double row of stitches. Why the women applied just 36 stars on the flag is unknown. Nevada was the 36th state admitted in1864, but by 1882 when they made the flag, Nebraska and Colorado had also been added to the union. Perhaps just 36 stars were used for artistic balance. Except for a few rips and tears, the flag is in remarkably good condition, but too large and too fragile to be hung in the museum. Bruce was founded in 1881 as the town of Lee. But in 1883 the name was changed to Bruce. After the flag makers moved to Bruce, they intended that the heavy flag be flown only on special occasions. But on one especially windy special day in 1884, Mrs. Kinyon had the flag lowered. She felt the rigorous Dakota wind would damage it, and she was probably right. From that day forward it has never again been flown on a flag pole. It was carried in the Bruce Centennial parade in 1981 surrounded by and held by former Girls Staters, each holding a section of the flag as they marched. It was later donated to the Brookings County Museum. The old flag, which even when folded is nearly as big as a card table, was difficult for the museum to display, so until funds were available for a proper container, it was placed in storage. The flag remained in storage over the years, the location of its niche forgotten as new board members were elected, and eventually it was considered misplaced, only to be located again this summer.

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