To commemorate Flag Day, we chatted with Paula from Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial to learn how the American flag plays a role in the park’s day-to-day operations.
Q: How many flags wave at the national park?
A: Well, Lincoln Boyhood flies the American flag every day on the tallest flagpole in the National Park Service. Our flagpole measures 120 feet 3 inches tall! First thing every morning park rangers put up the flag and then take it down in the evening just before we close the visitor center. We love it when we have visitors who are willing to help put the flag up and take it down.
Occasionally we fly a homemade flag with 20 stars at the Living Historical Farm. We put this flag up periodically during the summer months to help visitors understand the time period in which Abraham Lincoln lived in Indiana. The Lincoln family moved to Spencer County just after Indiana became the 19th state to join the union. We only have this one flag but during the time the Lincoln family lived here, there would have been 15, 20, 21, 23 and 24 Stars on the American flag!
Q: How large is the main flag?
A: The flag we fly every day is 18’X12’. On special occasions, such as Lincoln’s birthday and special anniversary celebrations we put up one of our garrison flags. This large flag typically measures 20’X36’ and takes several people to hoist and fold! We have two garrison flags. One has 50 stars and 13 stripes and the other has 15 stars and 15 stripes. This flag is known as the Star Spangled Banner flag! Can you guess why we have a flag with just 15 stars and stripes?
Q: How do you care for the flags?
A: Today we are putting up and bringing down our flag every day according to congressional flag code. The flag is typically brought to the visitor center to be properly folded by park staff and visitors who are willing to stay and help. Because of its size we are glad to have all the help we can get when folding the flag. We do not fly the flag during inclement weather.
Q: How many flags were used during Lincoln’s time in office?
A: I had to look this question up online. What I discovered is that there were three different flags that flew during Lincoln’s years as president. The Civil War began under the 33-Star American Flag. President Lincoln did not remove stars from the flag during the war because he believed the Southern states were still part of the government. As new states were admitted, new stars were added. From 1861 to 1865 there were 34 and 35-star American flags. The Civil War ended under the 35-star flag. I found this interesting – 3 months before the flag became official, a 36-star flag was used to cushion President Lincoln’s head the evening of his assassination at Ford’s Theatre.
Q: What changes have the flag gone through since Lincoln was president?
A: More stars were added to the flag as new states were admitted into the Union. The placement of the stars on the blue field frequently changed as well.