Sunday, January 30, 2005

Re: How many Stars did the Flag have that flew at the original Golden Spike ceremony?

Photos appear to show far fewer stars than would be expected.

Per the attached list, there were 37 states in 1869, Nebraska having joined in 1867.

The ... WH Jackson photo appears to show stars ranked in 4 rows, 5 across, suggesting 20 stars on the flag.

Other photos showing the flag include the following:
AJ Russell Imperial view 225 Laying of Last Rail
Stereo view 538 Space left for the last rail at Promontory, Utah
Also check out the view down the side of the Jupiter (Imperial 223 at Oakland Museum?), with all the small flags on the hand rail and running board.


Note my NEW address of

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The answer appears to be that there were 20 stars on the American flag atop the telegraph pole at Promontory Summit, Utah, although there were other flags on the CPRR locomotive, Jupiter, and contrary claims as to the number of stars are abundant:

"The flag that flies at the Golden Spike Site has only 20 stars, although there were 37 states at the time the spike was driven.  The problem was that the only 37-star flags they had were the small flags that decorated the Jupiter, and they were too small to be driven up the telegraph pole.  The only flag they could find on short notice was a 20-star flag from the civil war that was owned by a bystander to the event."

"On the morning of May 10th an estimated 1500 people assembled on Promontory Summit. The vast majority were rail workers, but some local citizens made their way to the site, joining a military detachment bound for San Francisco. All gathered under a flag that featured thirty-six stars. At this moment of moments, Utah's leading citizen and primary railroad contractor was nowhere to be found."

"1867-1877 NE. 37 Stars
AKA 'Promontory Utah'
On May 10, 1869 two locomotives, the Juniper and the 119, moved slowly toward each other under this flag and the continent was linked from East to West by the railroad."

" At noon yesterday, the signal was given by Mr. Myers, Telegraph Operator, that the last spike was driven. At the same instant, the stars and stripes were run up on the numerous flag staffs ... "

1/30/2005 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I believe the CP voucher for new bunting and flags from a Sact'o merchant, in CSRM's CP vouchers collection, confirms that Stanford ordered what was needed for "Antelope" -- [make that "Jupiter"] -- before leaving for the end-of-track ceremonies. We might, therefore, safely presume that what Stanford took to Promontory to decorate the CPRR locomotive were the most current flags. I wonder who provided the larger flag that flew overall?
Kevin Bunker

1/31/2005 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
shows a good selection of US flags. Ones with regular ranks of stars
include 20 (4x5), 24 (4x6), 28 (4x7),and (notably) 35 - the Civil War
flag (5x7). Both the 35 and the 37 star flags are shown at the web
site, along with 20 and 24, and others.

The 20 star flag was current in 1817-18 (July 1818 through July 1819 per
Randy Hees). Seems like an unlikely flag to be floating around
Promontory in 1869.

W H Jackson arrived at Promontory June 30, 1869, and left the following
day on the 1:00 (UP) train after camping there and exposing three
negatives of the last rail site, plus other views around the Promontory
area (per his journal). Jackson's is the clearest photo we have of a
flag at the site of the spike - whether the original flag or not. That
is the one that looks like a 20-star flag, although a clearer copy might
show more stars.

Hope someone has a clear view of AJ Russell stereo #538 - but I fear it
is blured by wind. Since this photo was taken well before the ceremony
on (presumably) May 10, it indicates the flag was placed on the
telegraph pole before the proceedings started. Stereo #541 also shows
the flag, but appears to have even more wind motion - apparently taken
about the same time from the other side of the tracks.

The Russell stereo series at Promontory are #534-544. His Imperial
(large) views are #223-227. Part of the challenge is he numbered his
negatives in geographical (not chronological) order after they were all
taken, so the number series does not necessarily tell the date. He
revisited Promontory in the summer of 1869 and took some additional
photos. None-the-less, #538 and #541 above are taken before the May 10,
1869, ceremony, showing the gap left for the last rails.

Someone asked about the flags the CP purchased, and I suspect these are
the small ones decorating the Jupiter.


Note my NEW address of

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

1/31/2005 2:03 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Date: February 1, 2005 4:17:20 PM EST

The CP invoices include flags from "Dale & Co.", Sacramento. The invoice
for the small flags were probably used on the Jupiter. The invoice for the
big flag may be for the one the CP telegraph chief put atop the flag pole
at Promontory (or it could be for one used in the Sacramento celebration).
My guess is Dale & Co sold up to date flags with all the stars;
unfortunately, there is no description of the flags with the invoice.

Bob Spude ¨ Historian ¨ Cultural Resources Management ¨ National Park
Service – Intermountain Region ¨ 505.988.6770 Voice ¨ 505.988.6876 Fax

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American
people so that all may experience our heritage.

2/01/2005 3:28 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Date: February 1, 2005 5:15:33 PM EST

... Besides the stereos listed ... , I also note that Russell imperial view 225 shows the flag, although partly obscured by wind flutter. ...


Note my NEW address of

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

2/01/2005 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the link to the "Russel" photo is really a Savage photo taken after the switch is in place a Russell stereo photo shows the flag while the switch is under final construction---presumably before the ceremony

9/25/2005 12:17 AM  

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