Mukilteo woman’s 44-star American flag is a historical mystery

Pat Colyer opens a triangular display case and carefully unfolds an antique version of Old Glory. It has 44 stars, the number on the American flag that became official on July 4, 1891, one year after Wyoming admitted to the Union.

For Colyer, who lives in Mukilteo, the nearly 10-by-6-foot flag is a historical mystery.

“While I was pulling weeds the other day, I was writing a story in my head from the point of view of the flag – what it had seen over the years,” the flag said on Thursday. 92 year old widow.

Colyer believes the flag may have been acquired by his deceased daughter and son-in-law during their long travels in the American West.

His son-in-law, Gregory Franzwa, was a scholar specializing in the trails that led the pioneers and covered wagons to the West. Founder of the Oregon-California Trails Association, he has written “The Oregon Trail Revisited” and other books. He dead in 2009.

With his wife, Kathy Franzwa, Colyer’s daughter, he visited sites along the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Trail, all of which had passed through Wyoming. The couple lived in Toolele, Utah, near Salt Lake City. Kathy was living with her mother in Mukilteo when she passed away last year from ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“I can imagine this flag flying over an army post,” said Colyer, who suspects the couple may have bought it, possibly in a former military fort, along one of the trails. .

The flag is frayed along the bottom edge and has several small holes. Its white stripes are patinated to a cream color. The stars, 3 inches wide, are sewn. It has metal eyelets and the fabric has the feel of linen.

“The earliest American flags were made from wool, cotton, linen or silk,” said Barbara Gatewood, professor emeritus of textile science at Kansas State University. His expertise was presented in a article 2013 on the university website. Since 1777, there have been 27 officially mandated flags and 11 unofficial flags, according to Gatewood.

“That old flag, it was hoisted in a big windstorm,” Colyer said, although she didn’t know it for sure.

The 44-star flag will officially fly for five years, under the presidencies of Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland.

A 3 inch star sewn onto the US 44 star flag. (Olivia Vanni / The Messenger)

The stars on Colyer’s flag do not line up exactly like the rows of the 44-star banner shown on a Chamber of Commerce website, which contains images of all the official flags of the United States. This would not necessarily interfere with the authenticity of Colyer’s flag.

According to the Smithsonian Institution, neither the star configuration nor the proportion of a flag was prescribed until 1912, when President William Howard Taft signed Executive Order 1556. being left to the discretion of the flag maker, ” explains the Smithsonian’s “Facts about the Flag of the United States.”

It was in 1889, a year before Wyoming joined the Union, that the state came for Washington, along with North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. Idaho, which became a state in 1890, was included in those states which added five stars to create the 43-star flag. He did not officially fly until 1890 and 1891.

At 92, Colyer is only 38 years younger than the alleged age of his antique flag. She lives independently, drives and gardens. “I can’t ski anymore,” she joked.

And this daughter of a career army officer continues to learn history through Great Classes. On Thursday, she was waiting for a course on World War II to be sent to Europe. “I remember WWII a lot. I was 11 when Pearl Harbor arrived and 16 when the war ended, ”she said.

Her late husband, Bob Colyer, was a WWII veteran and Boeing retiree who grew up in New Jersey. He passed away almost six years ago.

He worked on the Apollo space program in Florida, she said. One of his family’s ancestors, Colyer said, was involved during the War of Independence in the the hudson river Chain. The booms were built to prevent British ships from going up the river. A section of the preserved chain is on display at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

“I was an army kid,” said Colyer, who was born in what was then Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC. She met her future husband while he was studying at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. She has worked with high school science students and taught swimming in Deerfield Beach, Florida. It’s near Palm Beach, “45 minutes south of where ex-President Trump lives,” she said.

Colyer wonders if anyone interested in American flags, or maybe an organization, will want his.

“There is no big rush, but maybe other people have old flags and know the story,” she said. “Or if a Boy Scout troop wants to have a flag burning ceremony.”

Julie Muhlstein: [email protected]

Learn more

See the Smithsonian Institution’s “Facts About the Flag of the United States” at


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About Douglas Mackenzie

Douglas Mackenzie

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