The War Flags Collection at the New York State Capitol



The War Flags Collection includes the banners that represented New York State’s military units and battles. These embroidered and sewn cloths served as an identity marker, signifying a unit’s name or rank, unit color, and its place in the history of the country. They were also a rallying point, an indication of the strength and determination of the unit to fight until victory was gained or defeat was repelled.

Originally housed at the old State House museum in Philadelphia, the flags were transferred to the Capitol Rotunda in 1914. Many of the flags are deteriorated from age, exposure to light, and past attempts at repairs and “fixing” that were not up to professional conservation standards.

Raise the Standard: Exploring the War Flags Collection

Textile conservator Gwen Spicer was commissioned to stabilize and conserve these historic battle flags to preserve their unique histories. These battle-stained and bullet-holed flags tell the stories of their service to our country and its people from colonial era battles, to the Civil War, to World Wars and other conflicts.

The encapsulated flags are kept in flat cases that protect them from light, where they can be easily studied and interpreted by visitors to the museum. They are accessible to students, re-enactors and historians who are interested in the history of these flags. The archival material that accompanies each flag is also available. In the virtual video tour, War Flags, curator Chris Morton discusses some of the highlights of the collection. These include a Union flag that was captured by black soldiers and the colors of the 20th United States Colored Troops.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *