1817 State Constitution, US Flag at Old Capitol

“We are excited to have these symbols of statehood in the capital city’s oldest building,” said Old Capitol Museum director Lauren Miller. “There is no substitute for the firsthand connection to history these artifacts give us.”

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.

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.

Only two official United States flags were used before the 20-star flag. 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 April 13, 1818, when the 20-star flag replaced it.

The flag and constitution will be on display through October 1. After leaving the Old Capitol Museum, the constitution and flag exhibit will tour the state. The dates and locations are:

October 2-3, Columbus

October 13-14, New Albany

November 15-16, Olive Branch

January 7-8, Natchez

January 23-24, Pascagoula

February 3-4, Columbia

February 8-9, Greenwood

March 29-30, Amory

April 19-20, Winona

Completed in 1839, the Old Capitol is Jackson’s oldest building. The museum explores the distinguished history of the building and the events that have taken place in it. Innovative interactive exhibits give visitors a sense of the political discourse during that fascinating era when all three branches of state government were housed in the Old Capitol. The site is open free of charge Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The Old Capitol is located at 100 South State Street, Jackson, MS 39201. Email info@oldcapitolmuseum.com or call 601-576-6920 for more information. The Old Capitol Museum is a National Historic Landmark and is administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

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