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James K. Polk Home features 100 flags of history

James K. Polk Home features 100 flags of history

Posted: Monday, July 12, 2010 8:01 pm

The Tennessean
COLUMBIA (AP) — Stars and Stripes, Stars and Bars and other flags that tell tales of America’s evolution as a country are on display at a museum at the Tennessee home of the nation’s 11th president.
The exhibit, called “Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: The U.S. Flag Through History,” is housed in a renovated church at the James K. Polk Home in Columbia.
Polk was elected in 1844 and served one term in the White House. Some of the flags at the Columbia museum date to his time in office. Others were stitched in different eras, but they share a common story, said John Holtzapple, director of the Polk House.
“The flags are a reflection of our changing country,” Holtzapple said.
Polk was a big part of that, he said. Known as an expansionist president, Polk ran the country during a time when 800,000 square miles and three states were added to America.
Some flags reflect the addition of new states. Others came from battlefields; the collection includes a Spanish flag captured during the Spanish/American War, a Japanese flag from World War II and a flag flown by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
All of the more than 100 flags in the collection belong to John Olson, a local doctor and collector of American flags and other historical items. Some of his pieces include:
• A Confederate battle flag that flew over the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863
• A World War II-era Naval flag that belonged to Adm. Chester Nimitz
• A 1912 flag that unofficially commemorates the addition of New Mexico as a state
New Mexico and Arizona, the 47th and 48th states, were granted statehood about a month apart in the winter of that year.
Official flags are issued only once a year; the one that came out in July of 1912 recognized both states with 48 stars. But a handful of flag producers made 47-star flags that year, after New Mexico earned statehood but before Arizona did.
“It is so wonderful. It is so full of history,” said Connie McCain, a Smyrna resident who visited the exhibit Monday.
“You see so much. You know (the history) is there, you know it exists. But until you see it all, you don’t really appreciate it,” she said.

Published in The Messenger 7.12.10

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