Bedford Historic Flag, an American Enigma
The Bedford Flag is one of the oldest flags in American history, and one that harbors many secrets since its origin and past use are not well documented. It is, by today's customs, unusual in shape and design.
It is nearly square, measuring 29 x 27 inches, not unlike the painted battle flags of 16th and 17th century Scotland and England. What you won't see in pictures of the flag is the silver fringe that once bordered it or the tassels that once hung from the original banner's sheath.
We can derive many details from what we see, but much of the flag's history must be gleaned from written sources. In the case of the Bedford flag, gathering information has proved to be a significant challenge. For example, how did it become known as the Bedford flag despite being carried for generations by the family of famous minuteman, Nathaniel Page?
Perhaps its name has something to do with an unchronicled relationship with the town of Bedford or the Bedford Minutemen Company. Whatever the case may be, those secrets that historians do believe to be discernible are detailed here . . .
Age is more than a number
1704, Prussian blue
The age of the Bedford flag is unknown, as no documentation of its creation has been found. However, spectroscopic research revealed that a paint pigment, Prussian blue, was used in the flag's artwork.
Since Prussian blue was discovered in 1704, historians can conclude that the Bedford flag was created afterward.
1720, generation gap
Further evidence to suggest that the flag might have originated in the early 1700s includes the textile pattern that is the background of the flag. The woven floral pattern is indicative of the earliest part of the 18th century.
Additionally, a commission that is on display with the Bedford flag names members of the Page family in flag-bearing military positions. The commission was submitted to the Bedford Free Public Library in 1737.
The combination of facts suggests that the Bedford flag could have been carried by enlisted members of the Page family as early as 1720.
Based on written passages of oral history, historians agree that it is reasonable to conclude that the Bedford flag made an appearance in the American Revolution at the Battle at North Bridge, Concord.
It was there, on April 19, 1775, that Nathaniel Page is believed to have carried the flag out to meet the British in battle.
The original Bedford flag now resides in the care of the trustees of the Bedford Free Public Library, a gift from Nathaniel Page's grandson, Cyrus Page.
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