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45-star US flag found in attic being preserved for display in Minnesota town

A Pine River, Minn., family found the antique flag in their attic in 1995 and recently thought to donate it for display. This flag design would have been accurate from 1896 to 1908. Though Utah had joined the United States in 1895, the flag itself wasn't dedicated until July 4, 1896.

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Mildred (Bunny) Siltman uses her quilting experience to pin an over 100 year old flag to backing material as Betty McAllister, Pat Johnson and Annette Houg help prepare to preserve it for display. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
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PINE RIVER, Minn. — A history group in Minnesota is working to preserve a 45-star U.S. flag that could be as old as 125 years.

Heritage Group North in Pine River, Minn., plans to display the flag following a donation from residents Henry and Bev Kramp.

The Kramps found the antique flag in 1995 in the attic of their Pine River home and recently thought to donate it for display. This flag design would have been accurate from 1896 to 1908. Though Utah had joined the United States in 1895, the flag itself wasn't dedicated until July 4, 1896.

Upon having it inspected, Pat Johnson of Heritage Group North said the flag appears to be authentic from that time period and is made of linen.

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At the Pine River Depot Betty McAllister stands on a chair to check the layout of a 45 star flag as Mildred (Bunny) Siltman, Pat Johnson and Annette Houg gently smooth and move the flag around on its backing material. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

At first, Johnson thought it might have been a flag once draped over a coffin; however, wear on one end is consistent with that found on flags that have been flapping in the wind. That damage, along with the possible limits of manufacturing 100 years ago and the likely change in the material's dimensions, made it difficult to decide how to display it.

On Monday, May 24, Johnson, and others met to sew the flag to a backing made of archival approved fabric stretched on a frame, built by Henry's Woodworking in Pine River. A frame with UV protective glass (paid for by the Pine River American Legion) will then be installed and the flag will be hung inside the historic Pine River Depot.

Johnson hopes to have the flag dedicated officially on July 4.

Johnson said there isn't any real way to determine where the flag would have hung, though a similar flag likely flew at the post office and some photos show a similar flag flying in a park in the middle of Barclay Avenue in Pine River.

Heritage Group North welcomes any clues to where this flag may have hung in Pine River.

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Betty McAllister and Pat Johnson measure in from the outside of their backing material as they prepare an antique flag to be preserved for display. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

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Betty McAllister and Pat Johnson measure in from the outside of their backing material as they prepare an antique flag to be preserved for display. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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