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Rare Revolutionary War-era flag to go on display in Boston

The oldest 13-stars-and-stripes American flag available for public view is at the Commonwealth Museum.James Mooney

An important piece of Boston history has arrived for the celebration of national Flag Day this week.

Beginning Tuesday, the oldest 13-stars-and-stripes American flag that’s available for public view will be on display at the Commonwealth Museum on Morrissey Boulevard.

“[My family has] been wanting to bring it back to Boston, where it originated, for a long time,” said James Mooney, a Cincinnati resident whose family owns the flag and lent it to the museum.

Mooney, who was in Boston on Monday, said it’s believed that the flag was flown at what’s now known as Fort Independence, on Castle Island, around the time of the Revolutionary War. Mooney’s family acquired the flag in 1901, when one of his relatives purchased a fully-furnished home in Medford.


The home belonged to “a significant family with a history in the Revolutionary War, and going back to the Mayflower,” according to Mooney.

Since obtaining the flag more than 100 years ago, Mooney’s family has passed it down, and has put it on public display only a few times.

The worn flag is part of the Commonwealth Museum’s exhibit about Castle Island and its role in the American Revolution. Stephen Kenney, director at the museum, which is in the Massachusetts Archives Building, said the flag is identical in design to one that’s part of the State House art collection.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.