38-star flag found in Nebraska

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A lost piece of history was uncovered in one of Grand Island, Nebraska’s oldest business establishments.

Officials found a rare 38-star flag. That little trace of Grand Island’s past preserves a piece of the Bartenbach’s history.

“That’s really the coolest part about all of this. A lot of people have their own personal treasures, and they hand them down for a couple of generations. Unfortunately, a lot of that stuff gets tossed down the line,” Bartenbach Galleries owner George Bartenbach said.

With the modern-day American flag, you’ve got your 50 stars and 13 stripes, but the flag didn’t look like this until about 60 years ago. The 38-star flag existed between 1877 and 1889. It’s more than eight feet wide and 16 feet long and in fair condition with a few tears and stains.

“It was only the flag of the country for about 13 years. After that time they didn’t make them anymore,” Stuhr Museum assistant curator Robb Nelson said.

Museum staff use a special vacuum with low suction and material like a screen door to pull up dirt from the 135-year-old flag.

“In about three hours yesterday, we cleaned approximately two of these lines of the 13. It’ll be a multiday process in the end, but it’ll be worth it,” Nelson said.

The Stuhr Museum will team up with the Ford Conservation Center in Omaha to finish repairs. It’ll be several more months before it’s fully preserved.

The flag will be on display at the Stuhr Museum for a welcome home event July 20th. After that, work will continue to repair and restore it.


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