Five of the most historically important US flags ever sold

As we approach the Fourth of July, let's look at some of the most historically important US flags to ever come to auction.

5. Confederate army flag - $70,000

This Confederate flag was made for the Virginia Infantry in around 1861 and measures 4 feet across.

Confederate army flag
The Virginia infantry flag was passed down in the family of Major Richard Kidder Meade - Image: Brunk Auctions

It passed down the family of Major Richard Kidder Meade, a high-ranking officer in the Confederate army who fought in some of the most vicious battles of the US civil war and later advised Robert E Lee during the Peninsular Campaign early in 1862.

Meade died of typhus in July the same year. The flag made $70,000 at Brunk Auctions in North Carolina in 2011.

4. Native American Alcatraz flag - $72,000 

Between 1969 and 1971, the island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco bay was occupied by activists belonging to the United Indians of all Tribes as a protest against US policies affecting Native American peoples.

Native flag Alcatraz
This flag was flown over Alcatraz during its occupation by Native Americans during the early 1970s - Image: PBA Galleries

The occupation was intended as a forum to object to the US government's breaking of treaties and to force them to recognise traditional societies.

It had a significant impact on changing the policies of the Nixon administration and brought greater attention to the plight of the Native peoples.

This flag was designed by Lulie V Nall of the Penobscot people, one of the many activists on the island, and displays the red and white stripes with the stars rearranged in the shape of a tepee.

It made $72,000 at PBA Galleries in 2008.

3. Apollo 11 flown flag - $71,875

Apollo 11 flown
A number of flags were flown into space during the Apollo 11 mission - Image: Heritage Auctions

While it may not be the largest flag, this next example has been further than any other on this list.

It's one of a small number that were flown aboard the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 and is presented attached to a certificate signed by all three of the astronauts who made that first, groundbreaking journey.

It sold for $71,875 at Heritage Auctions in November 2013.

2. First national flag of the Confederate States - $120,000

national flag Confederate
Commander Caldwell of the US Navy captured this Confederate flag during the assualt on New Orleans in 1862 - Image: Louis J Dianni

This example of the first national flag of the Confederate States was captured by Union army officer Charles Caldwell, commander of the gunboat Ithaca, during the advance up the Mississippi to New Orleans in 1862.

The lot was accompanied by a letter by Caldwell that detailed the ship's holing during the assault on the city. The circumstances surrounding the flag's capture are not mentioned, but it's likely it was taken in the city itself.

It achieved $120,000 at Louis J Dianni in 2010.

1. JFK's Oval Office flags - $425,000

JFK flags Oval
Jackie Kennedy presented the flags to Evelyn Lincoln shortly after the assasination - Image: Heritage Auctions

These two flags hung behind Kennedy's desk in the Oval Office throughout his presidency and were presented to Evelyn Lincoln, his faithful secretary, just days after his assassination in November 1963.

She later wrote: "Special Agent Clint Hill and John J. 'Muggsie' O'Leary came to my office in the EOB (Executive Office Building) and handed me an envelope upon which was written the words 'The President's Office.'

"When I got home later that evening I handed the envelope (to my husband), telling him that Jackie had given it to me.

"Not knowing what was in the envelope we opened it and to my surprise there were these two flags. I cried and cried and cried. I sat down and immediately wrote her a note expressing my gratitude."

The enormous historical importance of the flags led to fierce competition from bidders, resulting in a final figure of $425,000 at Heritage Auctions last year.

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