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The Daily



06-14-03: Neptune man collects more than 20 antique American flags
In honor of old glory

The Daily Standard
    NEPTUNE - It's a grand old flag and collector Ed Miller has more than 20 antique American flags dating from 1800 to 1959 displayed in his Neptune home.
    Ironically his interest in flags began a couple years ago when he bought two Nazi flags at an antique flag auction in Minster.
    An eBay follower, Miller put the two flags on the Internet shopping giant and more than doubled his investment.
    Another auction near Cincinnati, this time of Civil War items, opened Miller's eyes to the money antiques bring. "It was just amazing. One framed picture from the Civil War sold for $19,500," Miller said.
    He went to a few more auctions and bought American flags, which he sold for a profit on the Internet.
    "The more I researched flags, the more I got interested myself. So I decided to collect them," he told The Daily Standard last week.
    Miller's research indicates the first American flags were sewn by Betsy Ross, Rebecca Young and Cornelia Bridges, but probably designed by Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
    Ross was a seamstress/upholsterer who attended the same church as George Washington. Although there is no documentation of how Ross et al were selected to sew the first flags, historians believe it is likely Washington knew her by church attendance and thus knew she was a seamstress.
    That first flag was 13 stripes of red and white and 13 stars in a circle on a field of blue, and Miller owns a replica of it, circa 1800 or before. No one knows what became of the very first flag and any flag from that era (1770s) is very rare.
    He also owns a Bennington flag, which is a significant collectible due to its unusual configuration of the 13 stars (a semicircle over the year O76).
    The Bennington is one of two famous flag designs coming from the Battle of Bennington in 1777. The one Miller owns is also called the Fillmore flag, which was passed down through Fillmore generations including U.S. President Millard Fillmore.
    "You can tell a Bennington because the stars have seven points rather than five and, also because the stripes begin with white at the top and bottom rather than red," said Miller.
    Although some flag styles have names, such as the Bennington, most are know by the number of stars, which were added as states joined the union.
    Miller would like to acquire a 20-star and a 33-star. "There aren't that many of them so when you happen on to one, the price is sky high," he said.
    He does have a 44-star made in 1891 of muslin. Because the fabric is so fragile and now paper-thin, he made a frame for it as he has for other fragile flags.
    Not framed is a length of fabric sold years ago by the J. C. Penney Company for $1. In the length is one large flag and two smaller ones that the buyer could cut and sew.
    "It's a 49-star and I also have the original printed information that goes with it, which makes it more valuable," Miller said adding he also has a 1889 Louisville Courier Journal (newspaper)  framed with his 42-star flag of the same year.
    The most interesting information Miller has discovered since he became interested in flags is that what most people think of as the Confederate flag is not actually the true Confederate flag.
    "The true confederate flag is red, white and blue and has stars and stripes. It's not the big X, which is actually the St. Andrew's Cross. The big X flag is a Confederate battle flag," he said.


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