One of the distinctive features of the vestibule of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium is the many flags displayed high above the floor. Originally called Trophy Hall, the distinctive display of flags prompted the room’s name to be changed to the Hall of Flags. Here are the flags currently on display with a description of each:
The ornate entry foyer of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium was initially called Trophy Hall and was intended to display “trophies of war” such as captured battle flags and other mementoes. Before any such artifacts were installed, the Auditorium management in 1925 obtained 40 flags of significance in the history of early America ranging from the flag carried by Christopher Columbus to the one that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Today, nine of those historic flags remain. They are joined by 25 flags representing the various organizations that are or have been members of the Greater Lowell Veterans Council.
Bennington Flag – Flown by American forces at Battle of Bennington, Vermont, on August 16, 1777. The flag consists of 13 alternating white and red stripes with a blue field containing 13 six-pointed stars with 2 stars at the upper edge of the blue field and 11 stars in an arc over the number 76 which represents 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence. On this flag, the white stripes are outermost and the blue field extends for 9 strips rather than just 7.
Bedford Minutemen Flag – The flag of the Minutemen from Bedford, Massachusetts, at the time of the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. The flag features an arm encased in armor grasping a sword on a red background. A yellow ribbon contains the Latin phrase Vince aut Morire which means “Conquer of Die.”
Stars and Stripes, aka Betsy Ross Flag – This flag was a variant based on the Second Continental Congress’ Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777 which directed the flag of the United States to be “thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field . . .” Historians doubt that Betsy Ross played any part in the design of this flag, however, belief in her involvement remains part of our popular culture.
Pine Tree Flag, aka Appeal to Heaven Flag – The first six ships of the Continental Navy flew this flag from 1775. Massachusetts also adopted the flag for its state naval forces. The pine tree was a common symbol on flags from New England and was appropriate for a naval flag since the Eastern White Pine was commonly used for ships’ masts. The phrase “An Appeal to Heaven” is from the writings of John Locke, who used it to describe the right of revolution against the “divine right of Kings.”
Star Spangled Banner Flag – When Vermont and Kentucky were added as states in 1795, the flag of the United States increased to fifteen stripes and fifteen stars. This is the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor when it was bombarded by the British in September 1814 which inspired Francis Scott Key to write and publish his poem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry” which became better known as the “Star Spangled Banner” and eventually became the national anthem of the United States. (When other states were added to the union, the practice of adding more stripes to the flag was discontinued and reversed to avoid cluttering the flag).
1st Pennsylvania Militia Regiment Flag – Set in a green field, the red square in the middle of this flag depicts a hunter thrusting defending himself from a charging lion. A yellow ribbon contains the Latin phrase Domari Lolo which means “I will not be conquered.” At the top of the square are the initials “P.M.1 R.” which stands for Pennsylvania Militia, 1st Regiment.
Bunker Hill Flag aka New England Flag – The flag carried by the American troops on June 17, 1775 at the Battle of Bunker Hill featured a solid field with a white corner containing a pine tree. Whether the flag’s field was red or blue is controversial. Connecticut artist John Trumbull who as a colonial officer observed the battle through a telescope from Dorchester Heights later painted “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, 17 June, 1775” in which the flag was red, but a later version of the painting showed it as blue. However, neither showed the red Cross of St. George in the white field along with the pine tree as became common in 19th century America and as is shown in this flag which has a blue field.
Gadsden Flag – This yellow flag with a coiled rattlesnake and the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me” was designed by Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina. He presented one to Commodore Esek Hopkins, the initial commander of the Continental Navy, to use as his personal flag. Gadsden also presented the flag to the legislature of South Carolina for use by that state’s navy. It was common for colonial flag designers, but before and during the Revolution, to include uniquely American things like the rattlesnake and the bald eagle on their flags and symbols.
Bunker Hill Flag variant – This flag is identical to the Bunker Hill Flag described above, except the pine tree on the earlier flag is replaced by a gold artifact [not sure what it is] on this flag.
Gold Star Wives – Flag is blue with Gold Star Wives organized of American Inc. Lowell, Mass. in gold letters above and below a large gold star. Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., was founded in 1948 with its own Congressional charter. Its mission is to provide support to surviving spouses and children of those killed while on active military service. The name of the organization comes from the practice of families of service members displaying a flag in a window of their home. Service members of the household are represented by a blue star on the flag while those who have lost their lives in the service are represented by a gold star.
Gold Star Mothers – Flag is white with American Gold Star Mothers Chapter 7 Lowell Massachusetts in gold letters above and below a large gold star. American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. was formed in 1928 for mothers of those lost in World War I and holds a charter issued by Congress. Over time, the organization has expanded to include any woman who has lost a child in active service in the U.S. military. The name of the organization comes from the practice of families of service members displaying a flag in a window of their home. Service members of the household are represented by a blue star on the flag while those who have lost their lives in the service are represented by a gold star.
Retired Armed Forces – Flag is white with “Retired Armed Forces” in blue letters above the organization’s logo with Chapter 2, Branch 3, Merrimack Valley Chapter, Lowell, Mass., also in blue letters, beneath the log.
Armenian American Veterans – Flag is blue with Armenian American Veterans Lowell, Mass. in gold letters encircling the organization’s logo. The organization began meeting in 1948 and was formally incorporated in 1952.
Polish-American Veterans – The upper half of the flag is white with Polish-American Veterans in red letters. The lower half of the flag is red with Lowell, Mass. in gold letters. In the middle, is a white Polish eagle, outlined in red inside a gold circle. In 1946, a group of World War II veterans from Lowell of Polish descent came together to form the Polish-American Veterans of Lowell. The organization grew quickly and received its corporate charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on May 20, 1948.
American Legion Post 87 – Flag is blue with “Lowell Post No. 87 Lowell, Massachusetts American Legion in gold letters above and below the organization’s logo. American Legion Post 87 was founded in 1919, the same year as the national organization.
Merrimack Valley Vietnam Veterans – Flag is white with an orange circle containing the words “Merrimack Valley Vietnam Veterans, Inc.” Inside the circle is the Vietnam Service Ribbon. Founded in 1981 by a small group of friends looking for a chance to talk about their experiences in the Vietnam War, the Merrimack Vietnam Veterans grew rapidly, obtaining its corporate charter in 1982.
Disabled American Veterans – Flag is blue with “Edith Nourse Rogers Chapter Lowell, Massachusetts Disabled American Veterans in gold letters surrounding the organization’s logo. Founded in the early 1920s and originally named the Disabled American Veterans of the World War, the organization’s mission was to assist wounded World War I service members in obtaining necessary benefits and assistance. The organization received its national charter from Congress in 1932 and changed its name to Disabled American Veterans in 1941 to reflect the needs of wounded veterans of the new and future wars. Edith Nourse Rogers represented Lowell in Congress from 1925 to 1960 and was a champion for veterans and for the V.A. system.
Jewish War Veterans – Flag is light blue with “Jewish War Veterans of the United States Post No. 28 Major Frank J. Van Greenby Lowell, Massachusetts” in gold letters surrounding national organization’s logo. The Jewish War Veterans of the United States was founded in 1896 by Congressional Charter. The Jewish War Veterans of Lowell was founded on May 20, 1930 and immediately had more than 100 members who had served in the armed forces of the United States during World War I. Major Frank J. Van Greenby . . .
Greek American Legion – Flag is blue field with “Greek American Legion Lowell Mass.” in gold letters surrounding a gold eagle grasping two lightning bolts and flanked by two stars. Greek American Legion Post 1 was organized in Lowell on May 16, 1946.
Lowell Veterans Council – Flag is blue with Lowell Veterans Council in white letters across the top above a large yellow star. Beneath the star are the words Served in Valor in red letters. Across the bottom are the logs of the five service branches with the name of each – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Corp, Coast Guard – above the respective logo. The Lowell Veterans Council was formed in 1919 when representatives from the Grand Army of the Republic, the United Spanish War Veterans and the newly formed American Legion began coordinating events and activities.
Korean War Veterans – Flag is blue with Korean War Veterans Greater Lowell in white letters above and below a logo featuring a map of Korea with 25 June 1950 and 27 July 1953 on either side. The Korean War Veterans of Greater Lowell, Inc. was formally created in 1992. In 1995, the name of the organization was officially changed to Greater Lowell Korean War Veterans Association, PFC Joseph R. Ouellette M.O.H. Chapter, Inc., in honor of Lowell’s Joseph Ouellette who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in the Korean War.
AMVETS – Flag is blue with a gold version of the national organization’s logo in the middle. The logo contains the words American Veterans – AMVETS along with an eagle over three stars surrounded by a wreath. AMVETS was formed in December 1944 to assist World War II veterans in obtaining benefits available from the federal government. Membership was later expanded to include all veterans.
St. Louis Parish Veterans – Flag is white with St. Louis Parish Veterans Lowell, Mass. 1986 in blue letters above and below twin symbols: an American flag and a gold eagle in front of a gold cross. Founded in 1984 by parishioners of Lowell’s St. Louis Parish and chartered as a corporation by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1986, the Veterans of St. Louis Parish was the first Catholic veterans organization in Massachusetts.
Marine Corps League – The flag is red with Lowell Detachment Lowell Mass. Marine Corps League in gold letters surrounding the Marine Corps emblem. The Marine Corps League of Lowell was formed in 1947 from the existing Merrimack Valley detachment. The Lowell unit received its corporate charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on April 4, 1949. The mission of the Marine Corps League is to promote the interests of the United States Marine Corps; to promote the ideals of freedom and democracy; to aid and render assistance to all Marines; and to perpetuate the history of the Marine Corps by observing anniversaries of historical occasions of particular interest to Marines.
Military Order of the Purple Heart – Flag is white with purple lettering and decoration consisting of the words Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 334 Lowell, Mass. above and below a silhouette of General George Washington who commissioned the Purple Heart in 1782. That date and 1932 are on either side of the silhouette. The Military Order of the Purple Heart was chartered by Congress in 1932. The organization’s mission is “to foster an environment of goodwill and camaraderie among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support necessary legislative initiatives, and most importantly, provide service to all veterans and their families.”
Patton Memorial Society – Flag is red with Patton Memorial Society Inc. in white letters above four white stars. The Patton Memorial Society was incorporated in Massachusetts on November 23, 1973, however, the birth of the organization occurred two years earlier with the unveiling of a portrait of General Patton and a parade to honor the General and all recipients of the Purple Heart.
Pearl Harbor Survivors – Flag is white with a large circular logo in the middle consisting of the words Pearl Harbor Survivors Association founded 1958 in blue letters surrounding a soaring eagle outlined in blue. The Lowell chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association was formed in 1958, the same year that the national organization came into existence. Membership consisted of all service members who were at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941.
South Pacific Buddies Association – Flag is blue with 1st Battalion 182nd Infantry together for-ever South Pacific Buddies Association in gold letters around a pair of clasped hands. In World War II, two Lowell-based Massachusetts National Guard infantry companies were part of the 1/182 Infantry. They fought at Guadalcanal, the Philippines and at other places in the South Pacific.
Daughters of American Revolution – Flag is light blue with a vertical white stripe. Inside the white area are the words Molly Varnum Chapter Lowell, Mass DAR above and below the logo of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The National Daughters of the American Revolution was founded on October 11, 1890 to perpetuate the memory and spirit of those who achieved American independence. The Lowell chapter was founded on October 30, 1894 and was named the Molly Varnum Chapter after Mary “Molly” Varnum (1750-1833) whose husband, Joseph Bradley Varnum, commanded the militia from Dracut during the Revolutionary War and who later became the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Portuguese American Veterans – Flag is white with Portuguese American Veterans Greater Lowell Post 3 in green letters above and below twin flags of the United States and Portugal. Founded in 1947, Portuguese-American Veterans of Lowell Post 3 had a large membership due to the many Portuguese-Americans who had served in the armed forces of the United States in both world wars.
Franco American War Veterans – Flag is blue with Franco American War Veterans Inc. in gold letters encircling the organization’s logo in the center with Post #4 Lowell, MA. Founded 1935 also in gold letters surrounding the center portion. Soon after the end of World War I, Franco-American veterans of Lowell would gather on Memorial Day for a memorial mass at Notre Dame de Lourdes Church and for services as St. Joseph’s Cemetery. In 1935, the veterans formally organized as Franco-American War Veterans Post 4, Inc.
Veterans of World War I – Flag is white with Veterans of World War I Barracks 262 Lowell, Mass. in gold letters above and below the organization’s logo. The Veterans of World War I of the USA (VWWI) was formed in 1948 to provide fraternal, civic and social comradeship to the 4.7 million men and women who had served in the armed forces of the United States during the First World War.
Army Navy Union – The flag is white with John Fennell GAR (Garrison) 26 Lowell Mass. Army & Navy Union U.S.A. surrounding the organization’s badge. The Army Navy Union was founded in 1886 by three U.S. Army veterans of the “Indian Wars” making it one of the oldest veterans organizations in America. It received formal recognition by Congress in 1894. A Lowell chapter was formally organized on February 27, 1946 and became known as John J. Fennell Garrison 26. Fennell was a young sailor from Lowell who died when submarine S-4 on which he was a crew member, was accidentally rammed by a Coast Guard vessel off Provincetown, Massachusetts, on December 17, 1927. The entire 40 man crew of the submarine perished.
Veterans of Foreign Wars – Flag is blue with Walker-Rogers Post No. 662, Lowell, Massachusetts, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Mustered in April 26, 1921, in gold letters above and below the VFW logo. Lowell’s Walker-Rogers Post 662 Veterans of Foreign Wars was chartered on April 26, 1921. The post is named for 1st Sergeant Ralph B. Walker of Company M, Ninth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, the first service member from Lowell to die in the Spanish-American War, and for Fireman third class George Rogers, the first from Lowell to die in World War I. Rogers perished when his ship, the USS Jacob Jones, was torpedoed by a German submarine.