NYS Capitol Flag Room

Virtual Visit: The Flag Room

Explore the military battle flag collection at the New York State Capitol.
Virtual Visit: The Flag Room
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Virtual Visit: The Flag Room

Explore the military battle flag collection at the New York State Capitol.

Fast Facts

 

  1. The flag collection was established in 1863. There are over 2,000 flags in the collection, the largest publicly held flag collection in the United States.
  2. The oldest flag in the collection is from the War of 1812. Around 60 percent of flags in the collection are from the Civil War.
  3. Over 500 flags have been professionally conserved so far.
  4. At one point, a field cannon was on display in the Flag Room.
  5. A planned renovation of the Flag Room would have merged it with the second floor War Room as part of a two-story rotunda in the 1920s. The renovation never happened however, though murals in the War Room from that era depict numerous battles and battle flags.
Trivia

 

What was the role of the Bureau of Military Statistics?
Created in December 1862, the role of the Bureau of Military Statistics was to record the histories, statistics, and artifacts of New York State regiments fighting during the Civil War.

Where is the rest of the New York State military collection on display?
In 2002, the New York State Military Museum & Veterans Research Center opened in Saratoga Springs and houses thousands of artifacts dating from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm.

What is the Veteran Research Center?
As part of the New York State Military Museum, the Veteran Research Center houses the research library and archives containing over 2000 volumes of military and state history and over 6,000 historic photographs. It also operates the New York State Veteran Oral History Program.

What is the relationship between former New York State Capitol architect, Isaac Perry, and the New York State Military Museum?
Long before it became the New York State Military Museum, the building was an armory that originally opened in 1889. The armory was designed by Isaac Perry, one of the original architects of the New York State Capitol.

What are the steps taken to conserve a battle flag?
Flag conservation is a very involved process consisting of documentation of the flag’s history and condition, removal of the flag from its staff, cleaning and realigning the flag, transporting the flag to an archival support, and properly storing or displaying the newly conserved flag.

What is Sgt. Henry Johnson’s connection to Albany, New York?
Henry Johnson moved to New York as a teenager and worked jobs throughout the Capital Region, including as a porter at Albany’s Union Station.  On May 14, 1918, Sgt. Henry Johnson of the 369th Regiment under French command during World War I, single-handedly saved himself and his partner from a German attack with nothing but a broken rifle, a few hand grenades, and a bolo knife. For his bravery, the French awarded Sgt. Henry Johnson the Croix de Guerre with a gold palm signifying his valor. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Henry Johnson.

What famous person’s visit to Albany led to the existence of the Flag Room?
During a well-publicized visit to the Capitol by Civil War hero, and former President, Ulysses S. Grant in 1881, a newspaper reporter found the war-torn flags in poor condition. A resolution was passed to move the flags into the Capitol.  They are currently on display in their large, oak, glass front cases on the first floor of the Capitol.

What are the oldest and newest flags in the collection?
The over 2200 flags in the collection include examples all the way back to the War of 1812 as well as the more recent wars and conflicts in Asia and in the Middle East.

Is it possible to buy a flag from the state government, even one flown at the Capitol?
The New York State Office of General Services provides the public with the opportunity to purchase a Made-in-America United States or New York State flag for a nominal fee. In addition, OGS offers the option of having your flag flown over the New York State Capitol at no extra charge. OGS will also arrange to have a flag that you already own flown over the New York State Capitol. For more information, visit https://empirestateplaza.ny.gov/buy-flags.

What is the difference between conserving a flag and restoring a flag?
Conservation attempts to preserve what remains of an original work, while restoration attempts to bring back a work to its original appearance. Out of respect for each flag’s past, it was decided to conserve each flag instead of making them look like new. Conserved flags may still show frays, bullet holes, and stains that will interpret their unique history and provenance for future generations.

Have any of the flags been repaired before?
Over the decades, people tried to “fix” deteriorating flags in different ways that were not up to professional conservation standards. Attempts at preservation included the addition of extra thread and fabric that did not match or had an adverse effect, such as new holes from sewing needles.