MANCHESTER — It was nearly 21/2 centuries ago that the Manchester Company of the Essex County Militia took off for the Lexington Alarm, the first Revolutionary War battle, on April 19, 1775.
As they marched, the minutemen carried a 60-by-63-inch red flag with 13 ivory stripes affixed to its top left corner, seven on one side and six on the other, representing the 13 United Colonies.
The men who marched that day never saw battle, since the alarm ended before they reached Lexington, and are long gone. But that bright red silk flag they carried, now called the Forster Flag, still exists.
The Forster Flag, said to be the earliest existing flag designed to represent the 13 original colonies, is up for auction Wednesday through Doyle New York, an auction and appraising company in New York City.
But what does it cost to own this iconic piece of American history? A whopping $1 million to $3 million, according to Doyle.
The flag is being offered to benefit the Whitney Smith Flag Research Collection in the Dolph Brisco Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, according to Doyle. Money raised through the auction will go toward an endowment for the center’s flag collection, John Huss, president of the Manchester Historical Museum, said Monday.
“Obviously, it’s something we would love to have,” Huss said. The museum will not be making a bid, he added. He said it would be great if the flag made its way back to New England, noting that he hopes it stays within the United States.
Though Huss said he doesn’t know where the flag was made, he said there’s a theory that the flag once sported a British Union Jack in its canton, or top left corner. This was removed and replaced with a red silk square onto which the strips of ivory representing the colonies was sewn, he said. The flag itself was made of two red silk strips sewn together.