The Dolson Flag Flies in Orange County

What is it, and why does it only have 21 stars?


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On Flag Day (June 14), we eagerly pay our respects to the United States flag in all its glory. The number and arrangement of stars on our flag has changed many times since Betsy Ross sewed on the first 13 in 1777. But the Dolson flag, located at the Neversink Valley Museum of History and Innovation in Cuddebackville, is unlike most other Old Glory designs.

Made in 1861 by Orange County native Liana Austin Dolson, then 70-plus years old, the flag reflects an unusual form. It contains a total of 34 stars, representing the 34 states in the Union at that time. What makes the flag so novel is that the front and back contain a different number of stars and a different arrangement of them. The front side shows 21 stars in a sunburst pattern, while the back contains 13 stars fastioned into an “X” shape.

The museum doesn’t know the reason for the Dolson flag’s unique configuration but offers some possible explanations. One is that the Dolson family had members who served in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars, which made Liana Dolson very proud. It’s possible she designed the family flag during the Civil War to commemorate both conflicts and her family’s pro-Union patriotism, hence the 13- and 21-star designs for both periods. Interestingly, the Confederate national flag contained only 11 stars.

To learn more and celebrate Flag Day, visit the museum (845-754-8870; www.neversinkmuseum.org).

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