Category Archives: Flags & Banners

Here are some examples of past flag or banner projects where these historic textiles were expertly conserved and mounted by textile conservator, Gwen Spicer.

Civil War Battle flags from Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield sits just outside of Republic, Missouri and is part of the National Park Service.  A visit to this Civil War Battlefield is “a must” for any historian or Civil War enthusiast.  It preserves the site of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, also known as the Battle of Oak Hills. Fought on August 10, 1861, it was the first major American Civil War engagement west of the Mississippi River. The Confederate’s failure to exploit their victory here resulted in keeping Missouri in the Union.

Spicer Art Conservation, LLC was entrusted to care for three battle flags from the Wilson’s Creek site.  Each flag required conservation treatment as well as an archival pressure mount for display.

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Each of the flags had specific needs and no two flags were alike. As any textile expert will tell you, the fabrics of a flag have much to do with the way the flag survives through history. Whether a flag is composed of silk, wool or cotton will have much to do with the possible damage it may suffer.

The first flag, called the “Lyon Flag” is a 34-star wool flag commissioned in 1861 after Kansas became the 34th state. The flag was quite stained overall and had small holes scattered throughout, as well as loss where the canton (aka the field) pulled away from the hoist (see image below). It also had numerous repairs to both the stripes and canton.

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Close-up of canton of Civil war flag showing damage and previous repairs

It was carefully cleaned. Below the dirt and debris is wicked away and captured in the cheesecloth material.

Wet cleaning of historic civil war fragile wool battle flag, restoration, repair, preservation of historic textiles.

The flag was conserved and pressure mounted. See image below.

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Civil War “Lyon” Flag after treatment. Image courtesy of NPS – Wilson’s Creek National Historic Battlefield, Republic, Missouri

The next flag, The G.A.R. Flag, or also referred to as the “Mack Flag” is also composed of wool, but with cotton stars. The GAR flag features 38 stars arranged in concentric circles with a large central star. This particular flag was in poor condition with stains, numerous weak areas, and losses overall, including tears, holes and vertical slits. The canton in particular had losses to the cotton stars which were quite brittle.16-2_bt_02

The flag was cleaned, stabilized and pressure mounted. The weak fly end of the flag in particular received careful attention as the losses were jagged, and could possibly cause additional loss to the surrounding threads.

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Closeup of the losses at the lower fly end

The flag was pressure mounted and prepared for display in a unique way; the canton appears in the upper proper left corner. It was determined that it would be displayed so that the words stenciled onto its surface could be easily read.  It was prepared for shipment back to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, where it will be displayed.

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The G.A.R. Flag after treatment.

The final flag treated was the very large (114″ long!) 34-star National flag composed of cotton and featuring a unique canton with red and white stars.  Overall the flag was quite dirty with dark liquid tide-lines present. The previous owners were smokers and it was the many years of exposure to smoke that gave the flag a dark yellow haze over the surface.  The image below shows how the flag arrived at the studio; the long fly-end was folded behind and the flag was sewn to a cotton backing.

29th Missouri flag before treatment, conservation, preservation and archival mounting, pressure mount of historic battle flag from the Civil War

The condition of the hidden stripes was unknown. Once released from its backing, the long fly edge could be examined. Surprisingly, even though they had been protected, the hidden stripes were not much brighter, (i.e. they had faded similarly to the stripes that had been exposed).

29th Missouri flag after treatment and mounting. The flag is a civil war flag owned by NPS Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

The flag (as photographed above) is displayed at its full length in a custom manufactured pressure mount and is exhibited at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.

Each of the Wilson’s Creek flags was professionally conserved by textile expert, Gwen Spicer, principal conservator and owner of Spicer Art Conservation, LLC.

The flags featured above are the property of the United States National Park Service, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Republic, Missouri. No images contained herein may be reproduced without the permission of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield or the National Park Service.

Civil War “Battle Honors” Banner

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Before treatment image of banner


This unique banner serves as a record of conflicts that the 136th New York State Regiment was involved in between 1862 and 1865. The banner is quite long, measuring nearly 10 feet. When it arrived at the studio, it was quite dirty, had several liquid tide marks,  several tears, and several linear inches of tape attached to the top and bottom hems. The textile was also quite brittle.

Reverse of banner before treatment with detail of tape.
Reverse of banner before treatment with detail of tape.

The goal of the treatment was to clean, stabilize and frame the banner along with its original rod and brass rings. Read more about the banner in our blog post, “An Unusual Civil War Battle Record”

After treatment image of banner and rod in custom archival frame.
After treatment image of banner and rod in custom archival frame.

For more information on our care of historic flags and banners, click here

4th Regiment USCT Civil War Flag , Maryland Historical Society

The 4th Regiment was from Maryland, consisting of troops who were about half free men and the other half comprising of liberated and fugitive slaves. This flag is one of fewer than 25 flags from US Colored Infantry Troops to survive the Civil War. (More on the flags of USCT can be found on our blog)

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The flag, in Maryland Historical Society’s collection, is remarkable complete. The canton is made of two-layers of blue silk fabric. The hoist is wool damask with pink silk ribbon ties. Gold silk bullion fringe remains along the upper edge.


After the flag was cleaned, humidified and encapsulated between layers of fine net, the flag was positioned onto the prepared pressure mount. A custom window was positioned to fully show the painted eagle on the reverse side.

Maine State Flag Collection

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Maine’s large flag collection had been displayed in the Capitol’s rotunda from 1871 until 2003 when a new, permanent, climate-controlled space, was allocated was opened at the Maine State Museum. Each of the flags in the collection were placed on their own individual fabric covered aluminum panel (pictured below) that was used for both display and storage. This holistic project approach provided public access to the collection, while achieving a collection wide preservation plan. More can be read in a condensed version published in NemaNews and on our blog, Inside the Conservator’s Studio


The mounting and treatment of the entire flag collection was performed with the oversight of Gwen Spicer. She trained two talented workers during the three years of the project (photo below). Prior to the mounting and treatment, a condition survey of all of the flags had been performed. 

work on flag, detail

Below, the mounted flags are housed below the display level. The flags stored in the racks below are then in place for future rotations. The rotations are slated three times a year and can be seen at their website

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Trade Banners from Maine Charitable Mechanics Association

In October 8, 1841, Portland’s “Maine Charitable Mechanics Association” held what proved to be the most lavish parade in its history. Prominent that day were 17 painted linen banners that each represent a different guild of skilled craftsman. The majority of the banners were painted by a member of the Association, William Capen, Jr.


These banners are now housed at the Maine Historical Society, Portland, Maine. More can be learned by going to Maine Memory. The project was to establish a system to both store and display these unusual two-sided banners.

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The banners are in remarkable condition for their 170 year age. In raking light the extent of creases and folds can be easily seen from years of being rolled in storage. 


Cleaning of this banner started on the right side in the images above. See the soot that has been removed over the word “LIVE” of the Ship Builder’s Banner.

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The treated and mounted banners were all stored in their customized storage rack.