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Forster Flag (U.S.)


Last modified: 2019-01-01 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | forster | knight |
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[Forster Flag of 1775]
image by Rick Wyatt, 18 July 2001
      [Forster Flag of 1775]
image by Pete Loeser, 15 November 2014

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Description of the flag

The Forster Flag was made of crimson silk, about three yards with thirteen short stripes in the canton, six on the obverse and seven on the reverse.

The flag was likely the flag of the Manchester Militia Company during the day of Battles of Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775 having mobilized but did not enter the battle. Original having British iconography, the militia removed them and substituted the 13 white stripes. The flag had a companion flag which was turned into a dress.

Recent research indicated that this flag is related to the “Grand Divisional” militia flags used to signal movement. The flag is earliest existing flag to use "13 stripes to connote the 13 original colonies" and one the earliest original flag in existence. The flag was a stamp on The Stars and Stripes pane issued in 2000.

Provenance of the flag placed it the ownership of Samuel Forster, a Manchester, Massachusetts shipmaster, and his decedents for 200 years. Forster was the elected First Lieutenant of the Manchester Militia Company and a member of the Manchester Committee of Correspondence among other offices held. The flag was on loan to the Massachusetts State House when Samuel's brother Israel died in 1818 leaving it to Samuel's son Israel to get the flag returned. The Beetle & Wedge, Manchester's newspaper, mentioned the flag in 1876 being under the ownership of the Forster family. A 1895 official town history also mentions the flag. In 1975, the family sold the flag to the Flag Heritage Foundation. The Foundation had the flag examined by experts in flag and textile, including the Smithsonian Institution, which dated the flag to the early Revolutionary War.

The flag was put up for auction at Doyle New York on April 9, 2014 with the proceeds to fund a vexillology endowment for the University of Texas’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The endowment would fund a curator for the Whitney Smith Flag Research Center Collection. However, the minimum bid was not met thus was not sold.


Steve Shumaker, 20 October 2016


From a newspaper article (March 5, 1937)

"Fifth generation now has flag"
Harry F. Knight, Jr., of Byers Street. proudly surveys the historic flag recently willed to him by his father of West Medford (MA). The large red silken banner, said to have been captured from the British troops during the Lexington alarm on April 19, 1775, originally bore the cross of St. George but this was removed by the Colonial troops and a plain piece of silk of the same color bearing buff chevrons for each of the 13 colonies was substituted, seven on one side and six on the other. Mr. Knight, a veteran of the World War, becomes the fifth generation in direct descent to possess the ensign since it came into the possession of his great great grandfather, Col. Israel Forster of Marblehead, who was a color-bearer in the battles of Lexington and Concord. For many years, the flag was loaned to the Commonwealth by the Knight family and was on exhibition in the State House Hall of Flags."
Susan Lynch