The Forster Flag
Manchester Revolutionary War Flag
Considered One of Rarest in Existence
Did you know that the Manchester militia in 1775, known as the Manchester Company, First Essex County Military Regiment, flew a “colors” or flag as they marched toward Lexington to engage the British! There are only a small number of “colors” that still exist from this era, and the Manchester flag is considered the oldest of its kind that is not owned by a museum. It is the first American flag known to have 13 stripes to represent the 13 colonies. On April 9, 2014, this rare, historical Manchester artifact was on the auction block in New York City. The pre-auction estimate of its value is $1 to 3 million!
Slim Proctor and Chris Virden, archivists at the Manchester Historical Museum, were contacted and visited by a representative of the auction house, Doyle New York, to help establish the flag’s provenance. Through extensive research, Slim and Chris, along with local historian Kitty Weaver, uncovered several interesting facts about the flag.
Lt. Samuel Forster, a well-respected citizen in town, served on the Committee of Correspondence, was a member of the militia who answered the call to Lexington, came into the possession of the flag. Lt. Forster passed the flag down the family for the next 200 years. When Israel Forster, owner of the beautiful historical house on the corner of Pine and Central St., died in 1818, the Forster flag was loaned to the authorities at the Massachusetts State House. For a number of years, the flag was on display, draped over a drum that was captured by the British. Mr. Forster had another valuable flag in his possession that was given to the Peabody Essex Museum, and is now part of their collections.
In 1975 a member of the sixth generation Forster family, Harry F. and Connie Knight, sold the flag to Mr. Whitney Smith, founder of the Flag Heritage Foundation. The family claims that the flag had actually been captured from the British, although there is no substantiation for the story. The first known written record of the flag was in 1895 by Mr. William H. Tappan, another well-known citizen of Manchester. He refers to the flag as “preserved by Mr. Israel Forster and flown as the colors of the Manchester militia.”
In 1999 the flag was commemorated as one of the 20 most important American flags, and honored by the US Postal Service. On April 9, 2014 the Forster Flag was put up for auction at Doyle New York to benefit the Whitney Smith Flag Research Center Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. It was privately purchased … and is now proudly on display at the Museum of the American Revolution.
Follow the link to find “OUR” flag on a virtual tour of the museum. Have fun!!!