1817 Constitution, Historic Flag Heart of Exhibit

constitution-interiorFROM MDAH RELEASES — On December 10, 1817, Mississippi became the nation’s twentieth state. In 2016 a new traveling exhibit featuring the first US flag to include the new state and Mississippi’s first constitution will tour the state to celebrate the approaching bicentennial.

“Thousands of Mississippians will see these treasures in their courthouses, libraries, and other community spaces,” said Mississippi Department of Archives and History director Katie Blount. “We are excited to partner with local groups in commemorating two hundred years of statehood by taking these incredibly significant artifacts directly to the people.”

The state of Mississippi was founded upon the 1817 constitution. On March 1, 1817, President James Madison signed legislation enabling inhabitants of the western portion of the Mississippi Territory to form a constitution and state government, while the eastern part would become a new territory. Forty-eight convention delegates assembled near Natchez in Washington on July 7, drafting the constitution and, after weeks of deliberation, adopting it on August 15.

“It’s amazing to look at the actual paper with the signatures of those early Mississippians,” said MDAH Archives and Records Services director Julia Marks Young. “There is no substitute for the firsthand connection to history that original documents like this can give us.”

The rare 20-star flag is one of only a handful known to exist. It was acquired by MDAH in 2001 after having been discovered in an antique shop in Massachusetts. An extensive conservation was completed earlier this year on the large banner, funded by a grant from the Billups-Garth Foundation in Columbus and private donations. The flag has been mounted inside a frame to protect it and allow it to be displayed upright.

“There were only two United States flags used before this one,” said MDAH director of collections Cindy Gardner. “The first had thirteen stars and stripes to represent the original colonies and flew from 1777 until 1795. The second flag added two stars and two stripes and flew until ours became the official United States Flag on April 13, 1818.”

MDAH will deliver the flag and constitution along with interpretive signs and other information and resources. The artifacts will be exhibited in each of ten communities for one to two days and will be accompanied by two MDAH staff. Communities interested in partnering with the department to host the exhibit can find site specifications on the factsheet and  application or by contacting Cindy Gardner at cgardner@mdah.state.ms.us or 601-576-6901.

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