Banners and Flags

MPF Conservation restores, conserves and preserves all types of textiles in their studio in Portland Oregon; this page is about banners and flags.

MPFC is conscious of the symbolism contained within flags, banner and pennants. They often signify creeds, missions and identities which include group or personal dedication relative to a religion, a community, or a country. Sometimes persons involved gave their lives for the cause represented.

When we handle these objects we treat them in the manner we treat ecumenical clothing or vestments, as a sacred object.

These types of banners are not generally commercial (though as you can see, our Texaco banner below is from a collector).

Foxing needs to be understood as it is mentioned often in the textiles pages. Foxing shows up as small rusty-colored spots, sometimes like flecks and sometimes round, example shown left in a historic Wrench quilt from the Tualatin Historical Society. It cannot be removed, as it is an interaction between specific mold spores and mineral oxides. It is NOT a mold, but a by-product. It doesn’t “damage” the fiber per se but should not be allowed to proliferate if possible as it is unsightly, so items with foxing should be stored away from items without it. Make it a habit not to touch an item with foxing then touch one without foxing.

American 48-Star WWI Flag aka “Archie’s Flag” circa 1918

We recently assessed “Archie’s Flag”, a terribly damaged 48-Star flag.

Archie was a young American foot soldier who sacrificed his life in the Netherlands during the Battle of Flanders in WWI. This flag draped his coffin, and is a sacred item for his family. Our conservation will be respectful of these circumstances.

Our proposal in a project like this is not to repair the holes, but to back the flag to keep further damage from occurring, and to clean the flag.

It has lived in the leather bag for protection, right, which we will also clean.

American Legion Flag circa 1920

The American Legion credo: “To enhance the well-being of
America’s veterans, their families, our military, and our communities
by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.”

The Dayton banner was created not long after the creation of the American Legion in Paris France in 1919. It weathered many events, including outdoor parades. We assessed the banner for restoration.

It was created with gold and bronze infused paint on a saturated blue silk. The banner edges are defined by a hand-stitched gold bullion fringe and the leading edge contains a placket for the stanchion, which is embellished with woven rope braids and large bullion-style tassels.

Above and below, images of the banner before treatment.

Chinese Appliqued Double-Layer Banner circa 1900

We assessed this silk banner for a Patron. It consisted of historic appliques of Chinese images attached to a red silk field with a black silk border.

The banner needed loose appliques reattached and it needed spot cleaning.

After treatment, above, and detail within text bottom right;
before treatment below.   

Mid-Century Texaco Banner, Print on Canvas circa 1950

The fifties Texaco credo: “You can trust your car to the man
who wears the star; the big bright Texaco Star!”

This banner was created during a time where service stations (not gas stations) employed multiple attendants who would descend all at once to check your oil, water, tire pressure, AND clean your windows while pumping your gas.

The Texaco Fire Chief Banner was in excellent condition, but dirty and creased. The back appeared to have been dropped into dirt, and creased areas were especially dirty with brown/charcoal marks. In two places what appeared to be very old light shoe prints which walked through a charcoal substance tracked on the back.

Our treatment was to clean this bit of Americana for our client, which we did, almost removing all stains, shown top and right, though we were unable to completely remove the stain without possibly damaging the printed image. For more information, visit our blog:

Historic Washington State banner, above.

Reproduction Banner of the Historic Washington State Banner

Washington State is named after George Washington, our first president. The historic silk painted banner, an homage to Rembrandt Peale’s (1778–1860) portraits, has graced the Governor’s Reception Hall in the Legislative Building for a century, shown top left above. Peale’s banner was based on his father’s portrait, and so is a homage to a sitting portrait.

Note: Rembrandt Peale’s image of George Washington painted in 1846 from the Mount Vernon site, right.

The original banner was commissioned for the Capital by the Washington State Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

The historic banner needed conservation, and while currently in storage will eventually be displayed elsewhere in a protected environment. Paint cracking and degradation of silk foundations and losses on decorative embellishments (see below) can be seen in the top row details above.

MPFC was hired to create a reproduction banner to take its place, and so ours was an homage to an homage!

Our first stumbling block in reproducing the banner was finding emerald green silk of the proper weight. We literally did an exhaustive search spanning many countries to find the material used (see our link below on Assembling and Painting George Washington’s Flag).

We also found good replicas for the three types of trims on the historic banner, shown left:

  • The twisted braid (with eyelets) was positioned by hand into the floral motif and hand-stitched, and not perfectly spaced.
  • There is a lovely gimp tape that sits on top of the tassel fringe covering the seam.
  • The tassel fringe was hand-knotted so that there was a drop, then the “fringe” threads fanned out.

Kate practiced creating several images on paper first, partly because we could not keep the historic banner indefinitely. She then moved to oil paint on small 36″x36″ pieces of silk until she was ready to begin the portrait on the large sheets of material.

In the second image above, one of my practice images, George looks a bit youthful
and baby-faced, but he transformed as I worked on him.
Below, the left is the first entire mock-up, and right, the final banner.

She created three, each a little different. Studying many images of George which were painted while he was alive was an assistance, and of course, the historic banner was quite different from many of the images where George sat for his portrait!

Below is a page on the process, including the extremely difficult job of finding emerald green silk (who knew):