Search for Stars and Stripes turns up relic

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

A search for United States flags led to a rare find at Nip Kelley's offices in Cape Girardeau -- a century-old, 45-star flag.

With a sudden, staggering demand for U.S. flags created by last week's terrorist attacks, Kelley employees discovered the relic while they were hunting for a second flag.

"We have one flag flying," said Kim Kelley, manager of Kelly Transportation. "But we were looking a second one."

A Kelley mechanic, Larry Maglone, remembered seeing a flag in an old box upstairs at the company's offices on Sprigg Street.

"There were five or six flags there," said Kim Kelley. "They were old, so I started counting the stars on them."

Three of the flags had 48 stars -- predating Alaska and Hawaii's entries into statehood.

But the largest flag, 60 by 54 inches, only had 45 stars.

This sent Kim's husband, Terrence Kelley, to the Internet.

"We found that the 45-star flag was issued in 1896, when Utah became a state," said Kim Kelley.

The 45-star flags were issued between 1896 and 1908, when the 46th star was issued for Oklahoma.

The box of flags came from an old house Cape Girardeau several years ago that was acquired by Kelley-owned companies.

The 45-star flag is worn in a couple places where the red and white stripes go beheath the field of blue, but that does little to diminish from its historical and sentimental value.

"We've discussed placing it in a frame and leaving it on the wall here," said Mrs. Kelley. "At this point, we're not sure just what we will do with it."

Terrence and his brother, Vince Kelly, discussed selling the flags and donating the proceeds to the American Red Cross.

Forty-five star flags can be found for sale on the Internet, with prices ranging between $60 and $120.

The 48-star flags are more plentiful, and can be bought for $20 to $40.

One of the more rare flags is the 49-star flag.

There wasn't that much time between the 49th and 50th stars, explain antique dealers. Not that many were produced.

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