Stripes and Stars Forever

The backwards flag of Easton, PA.

Roughly two centuries ago, a seamstress or flagmaker somewhere in the town of Easton, Pennsylvania, had a crazy and possibly brilliant idea: Instead of putting the stars in the corner and the stripes across the flag, why not put the stripes in the corner and the stars in the middle?

The result looked like this:


I first came to Easton about a year ago when I began covering it as a reporter. At the time, I had never seen or heard of a flag like this; I couldn’t imagine why the city had printed up dozens of backwards flags to line the city’s main square. Later, after I learned the history, it became one of my favorite quirks of the city.

Soldiers from Easton fought under a flag of this design in the War of 1812; that historic flag is still on display in the Easton Area Public Library. The story is that it was presented to the company of Captain Abraham Horn on September 6, 1814, as the soldiers left for Camp DuPont.

But that’s not the story most Eastonians know. Popular lore says this flag was in use 38 years earlier — that it was raised in Easton’s Centre Square on July 8, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was read there, making the city the third place the declaration had been read publicly. The city celebrates that history every year with a festival called Heritage Day.

Still, finding copies of the flag isn’t easy. The design is barely known outside the city, which has a population of only 26,000 or so, so there’s not much demand for it. It took me months of searching before I finally found a little, desk-sized Easton flag in a hole-in-the-wall textile shop beside Easton’s Delaware River waterfront last week — and now it’s part of my own Easton history.

Image courtesy of the Easton Area Public Library’s Web site.

Article © 2009 by Michael Duck