Friday, March 23, 2012

Forty-seven Stars

Forty-seven Stars

In a recent edition of El Palacio I came across an article by Louise Stiver, formerly of the Department of Cultural Affairs, now an advisor and journalist contributor to the magazine. What struck my interest was two-fold. Firstly its subject was, of course, a textile, namely a flag. But not just any American flag. This article concerned the flag of 47 stars, the statehood of New Mexico. This is the centennial year of New Mexico’s statehood and there has been much interest in our history.

Apparently, the custom of creating a new star field in our flag after a state is admitted to the union was rather a random procedure and there had been many different configurations. In the beginning, June 14, 1777
 ( June 14 is till known as “Flag Day”) the Continental Congress resolved “ that the flag of the 13 United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.” In 1818 a flag law set the standards for what, is now, our flag of thirteen stripes for the original colonies and a field of stars, one for each state. The new star is to be officially added to the design on July 4 following the state’s admission. That, it seems , was the problem of the 47 star flag.

You may recall that New Mexico was not the only state admitted that year. Only a few weeks after our recognition (at long last) in 1912, our neighbor to the west, Arizona, was also admitted so that two stars were officially added to the flag on July 4, 1912.

Not waiting (and sharing stars) until July, many 47 star flags were created to show our patriotism and were flown over the state capital and Palace of the Governors and displayed by citizens throughout the state. Now these were not official flags, per se, and not, according to Stiver all of one design. This makes the search for these textiles especially tantalizing for historians and collectors. The New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe will display their 47 star flags throughout this centennial year.

El Palacio was first published in 1913, one year following statehood. The name references the Palace of the Governors, the first museum of New Mexico. The periodical highlights Southwestern culture and history. For more information visit

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