Vice Presidential Flag

This month we highlight a Vice Presidential flag as our featured artifact. As with the Presidential flag, it was the Navy that first recognized the need for a Vice Presidential flag, such that it could be flown when the executive was aboard a ship. In anticipation of a trip in 1915 on which Vice President Thomas R. Marshall would be representing President Woodrow Wilson, Navy officials noted that there was not yet a flag for the Vice President, and that one should be created. The Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Navy chose to use a version of the Presidential flag of the time, but with a white background instead of blue. On the white background was centered the image of the Great Seal of the United States—essentially the eagle holding arrows in one talon and olive branches in the other, with a cloud containing thirteen stars above. This flag was used a few times, but was never officially adopted.

In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt issued the executive order that authorized the first official Vice Presidential flag. Once again, the flag acted as a sort of “inverse” Presidential flag, using a white background instead of blue, and a blue eagle instead of a mostly white one. Like the Presidential flag and that of other high government officials, the flag had a star in each corner.

background. In this version the eagle holds only one arrow and olive branch, and is surrounded by a ring of thirteen stars. This particular example is 12’ high by 6’ 8” wide, made primarily of wool bunting, and dates to about 1950.

The version featured here is not the one in use today however. The flag would undergo another redesign in 1975, as President Ford’s Vice President Nelson Rockefeller was unhappy with the 1948 design. This current version largely returns to the look of the 1936-1948 flag, with the white background, Vice Presidential Coat of Arms in the middle, and four large blue stars surrounding it. In this version however, the eagle is brown and white instead of the blue used in the earlier example.

Video Podcast


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Civil War-Era Enlisted Frock Coat

Shown here is an Enlisted Frock Coat dating to the Civil War. The coat originally belonged to Nathaniel Davis, who served in “I” Company of the 12th New Hampshire Volunteers during the Civil War before being discharged in 1864. As evidenced by the stamp inside the right sleeve, it was produced by the J.T. Martin Company, which was the largest contractor for the Federal Government during this period. Frock coats such as these had become regulation for the Army in 1851, and though undergoing some changes to the pattern over the decade, would remain in use through the Civil War up until 1872.

In contrast to the sack coats commonly worn during the Civil War, the longer frock coat has a skirt that extends down midway between the hips and knees, and features a stand-up collar as opposed to the sack coat’s turnover version. The frock coat was more expensive than the sack coat to produce, and while more formal in appearance, was less comfortable than the latter as well. These coats were comprised mainly of blue wool, with this particular example having sleeves lined with white cotton and a quilted brown chest lining. This version of the coat is single breasted with nine buttons down the front as was standard for enlisted Soldiers, and features light blue piping lining the collar and sleeves indicating service in the Infantry.

Video Podcast


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M1885 Officer’s Cape

This month’s featured artifact is an M1885 officer’s cape that once belonged to Cavalry Officer and future Brigadier General John T. Knight. After graduating from West Point in 1884, Knight was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Cavalry. In the late 19th Century he served in the Army’s actions in the West, before being appointed Commandant of Cadets at Virginia Tech University. He served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War and also spent time stationed in the Philippines. However, he is most recognized for his work as a Quartermaster during World War I, both for his time as the Quartermaster for the Port of Embarkation at Newport News, Virginia, and for his time in Europe including serving as the Chief Quartermaster for the American Expeditionary Forces from April to September of 1919.

In 1885 the Army authorized an optional cape to be worn in place of or in addition to the already standard overcoat. The cape is made of dark blue wool with a black velvet collar and black mohair trim along the opening. A black mohair frog button fastens at the neck. The inside of the cape is lined with wool in a color corresponding to the Soldier’s branch of service—in this case yellow designating Cavalry. The collar on this example features the embroidered crossed swords insignia of Cavalry along with embroidered “U.S.” insignia.

Video Podcast


No video was produced for this month, but please visit our YouTube channel to see videos from our other artifacts:  Click Here