The Lothrop Flag – Oh Long May It Wave

How do you express your patriotism? If you’re like the Lothrop Family, you go BIG!

Recently, a 10-foot by 20-foot American flag belonging to the Lothrop family and housed in the Minute Man National Historical Park archives was conserved thanks to the fundraising efforts of Taryn Holmes, a high-school student and an active member of the Children of the American Revolution (CAR). Harriet Lothrop founded the CAR in 1895 and lived at The Wayside, The Home of Authors, for many years with her family.

The 37-star flag was displayed during at least three patriotic events hosted by the Lothrop’s at The Wayside between 1883-1904. The flag is made from wool bunting and consists of seven red stripes and six white stripes, sewn together to a rectangle of blue. It was made locally by the United States Bunting Company in Lowell, MA, on April 26, 1870.

Stars and Stripes on Display
The Lothrop family displayed the flag at an 1883 reception for Mary Cunningham Logan on the west lawn of The Wayside. Logan was well known for her efforts to make Memorial Day a national holiday. According to the Concord Enterprise, approximately 400 guests were in attendance. The great flag was festooned over the piazza roof and provided a patriotic backdrop for the guest of honor. (see image above)

The flag was proudly displayed in the summer of 1898 at a Children of the American Revolution garden party fundraiser for the Massachusetts Volunteer Aid Society. As the flag was unfurled, hundreds of smaller flags escaped and fluttered down to earth as the audience sang the “Star Spangled Banner”.

The Lothrop’s also displayed the flag in 1904 to celebrate the Hawthorne Centennial as Nathaniel Hawthorne lived at The Wayside from 1852 through 1869. The centennial celebration was a three-day event in honor of the 100th Anniversary of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth on July 4, 1804. The flag was hung between two large pine trees near the Hawthorne centennial plaque (see image below).

Because of its large size, each time the flag was used it got ripped, soiled, stained, and torn. The Lothrop’s had it repaired and cleaned from time to time, but the flag needed additional preservation treatment.

So how to you conserve a gigantic flag? One section at a time! The conservator first surveyed the textile for potential pests. Pests like bugs can find their way into collections to eat organic material or other pests present. If pests are found on a museum object, it would require pest eradication treatment such as freezing or anoxic treatment. Luckily, the flag had no live pests. Next, the flag was cleaned on both sides with a HEPA vacuum. After cleaning, sections of the flag that had torn were repaired using wool fabric and polyester thread. To ensure a match, the wool that was used to patch was custom-dyed blue or red. Smaller rips and tears were repaired with colored thread (see images below).

Meet the Donor
The Friends of Minute Man and Minute Man National Historical Park are thankful for the generosity and dedication to preserving history shown by Taryn Holmes. Taryn is a rising senior at Holliston High School, is an active member of the Massachusetts Society Children of the American Revolution, is the National Organizing Secretary of the National Society of the Children of the American Revolution (N.S.C.A.R), and is a drummer with the Massachusetts Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Col. Henry Knox Regimental Color Guard.

Taryn Holmes spent much of her free time during the covid pandemic developing a service project and raising funds to plant a tree at The Wayside and to donate funds to conserve the Lothrop flag. Thanks to the generous donation from Taryn, this flag will continue to be preserved and protected by Minute Man National Historical Park and inspire a new generation of Americans.

Click here to learn more about Taryn and the tree planting at The Wayside in 2021.

Written by Steven Neth, Museum Technician, and Nicole Walsh, Curator at Minute Man National Historical Park.

Image above: View of The Wayside lawn and the Lothrop flag draped on the piazza during the August 1890 reception for Mary Cunningham Logan. From the Minute Man National Historical Park Archives.

Image below: The flag was hung between two large pine trees near the The Wayside covering the Hawthorne centennial plaque in 1904. During the centennial celebration, Beatrix Hawthorne, Nathaniel’s granddaughter, loosened the flag to unveil the plaque. From the Minute Man National Historical Park Archives.

Images above: Before and after images of conservation work on the Lothrop flag. Courtesy of Deirdre Windsor, Conservator.