The 1758 Flag
The Fort Bedford Flag was a gift to the British forces at Fort Raystown by the Fourth Duke of Bedford, England. Between November 28th and December 14th, 1758, Fort Raystown was renamed Fort Bedford in honor of the Duke and his honored flag. Known as a "red fly," this type of flag also was used on British ships. While no evidence that the flag ever flew over Fort Bedford exists, the official Fort Bedford Flag was hung in the officer's quarters and only brought out on special occasions. After news of America's Declaration of Independence reached the town of Bedford, the flag was seized by patriots from the hands of an unknown British officer.
The flag is constructed of red silk satin damask with a floral woven pattern. The flag measures seventy and one-half inches (70-1/2") on the leading edge and eighty and five-eighths inches (80-5/8") on the fly. The fly consists of two and one-half widths of the damask joined in horizontal, flat fell seams. An analysis of the artifact revealed that the fabric was probably produced with a loom width of approximately thirty inches (30"). The pieces were sewn together with two-ply, S-twist white and gold colored thread. Both hems, of the top and bottom of the fly, are rolled, and indicative of the time period in which it was produced, hand stitched. The hems were produced by rolling the material over twice, then sewing them with two-ply, S-twist white silk thread. The leading edge has a 2" pole sleeve. The leading edge had been rolled around to the obverse side, the edge was rolled under, and then it was stitched with two-ply, S-twist red colored thread. Two grommets are sewn at the top, one on the front and the other at the back. The fly end is frayed to form a fringe measuring 1-3/4".
The "Union Jack" canton (pictured, left), located in the top, left corner, is constructed of plain woven, light blue, faded to green, and white silk. The canton measures twenty three inches (23") by twenty-four inches (24"). The various pieces were sewn together on the seams with two-ply, S-twist red and white silk thread. The red damask fabric was cut out and the union jack was then inserted and attached to the fly around the perimeters with a flat felled seam. The union jack was sewn first to the reverse of the fly, then the seam selvages were turned under on the obverse and whip-stitched with two-ply, S-twist red and white silk thread.
Fonda Thomsen, a textile conservator in Sharpsburg, Md., preserved the flag, analyzed its fibers and dye and concluded that it was made in the 18th century. At the present time, the Fort Bedford Flag is framed in a protective climate-controlled case and kept out of direct light in order to further preserve it. Access to it is restricted for security and preservation reasons.
Information about the 1758 flag provided by Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writer. June 2008.