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American flags fly by the thousands at NMA
by Sarah Cooper
Oct 22, 2008 | 1425 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Courtesy NMA - Terry Heffernan, Great American Sport, 1995, color photograph.
As young boy, Kit Hinrichs pulled an old tattered American flag out of a box and took it to school for show and tell. The flag was pieced together stitch by stitch by Hinrichs’ great aunt in 1865, in the midst of a nation divided by civil war. The family heirloom started a 40-year obsession for the designer from San Francisco, who has now collected almost 5,000 pieces of American flag history. Hinrichs’ collection will be on display at the Nevada Museum of Art starting Saturday and will hang in the gallery through Feb. 22.

"Long May She Wave" showcases centuries of art depicting Old Glory as it traveled through war, peace and artistic alteration throughout American history.

In conjunction with exhibit, the museum will be offering free admission on Election Day, Nov. 4. Admission is also free for military members who show ID throughout the month of November.

Hinrichs’, a former military member himself, was raised with a fervor for Americana.

“I am certainly a product of my generation,” Hinrichs said as he looked at the family heirloom hanging pristinely in the museum behind a sheet of protective glass. “I was born around the end of World War II, which was a very positive time (in American history.”

Hinrichs’ collection includes a range of representations of the flag, some flying through Korean conflicts in 1872 and some tattooed all over bodies of World War II veterans.

“For the first 150 years of this country, the people designed their own national icon,” Hinrichs said. And to him, that is what is fascinating.

In one corner of the exhibit, a sheet of red and blue vintage stamps, some still attached to sepia-toned paper, hang in the pattern of a flag. According to Hinrichs, each blue star stamp is postmarked from each of the 42 contiguous United States. Also, each line of red and white stripe is postmarked from the original 13 colonies.

Many of the flags, in particuluar those from the Navajo weavings collection, show the stars on the right side of the flag instead of the traditional left side.

Although the basic components of America’s symbol were decided by the Continental Congress in 1777, more than a century passed without formal design regulations. As the exhibit shows, this led to more than a century of artistic interpretation.

“Guidelines (for the design of the flag) didn’t really exist until 1912,” Hinrichs said. Following that, the guidelines didn’t become code until 1923.

According to Nevada Museum of Art spokesperson Alexia Bratiotis, the collection includes the flag in celebration, featuring items such as decorative ornaments, home items, and sports memorabilia; the flag in commerce, as seen on magazine covers, product packaging and advertisements; the flag in art and folk art, with crocheted flags, quilts and artists' renderings; the flag at play, with wooden blocks, parade parasols, party horns and various toys; the flag in politics and protest, with posters, buttons and miscellaneous campaign collateral; the flag in Native American art, with woven blankets, beaded coin purses, gloves and moccasins; and the flag at war, with battle-flown flags from the Civil War and Korean Conflict, as well as war medals and memorabilia ranging from pennants to whiskey flasks.

Other unique items in the collection include an American flag kimono, given to the United States along with 3,000 cherry trees by the Japanese president, and a depiction of Charles Lindbergh’s flight, with all the flight information embroidered along the edge.

The Nevada Museum of Art is located at 160 W. Liberty St. in downtown Reno. Galleries are generally open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., staying open late on Thursdays until 8 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors and free for museum members. For more information, call 329-3333 or visit

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