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TCU Magazine Feature

Unfurling history

Launch even a cursory study of the flags of Texas and you'll tap into the political, cultural and aesthetic attitudes of the people who created the state. It's a journey of war, intrigue, suspense and Hollywood-style endings. And beginnings.

Robert Maberry Jr. '87 (MA) (PhD '92) began his own ascent into the banners' colorful past when the United Daughters of the Confederacy asked him in 1999 to trace the history on 20 aging flags the organization had acquired. Soon he was appointed historian for the Historic Flags of Texas Project, where he met Peter Mario, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, who was on the project's advisory board.

Marzio suggested that Maberry place some UDC flags and some from the Texas State Library collection in an MFAH exhibit in 2002. At least half of the ones that Maberry picked had not been conserved, so the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission agreed to raise the money to save the 15 or so historic flags from destruction.

As he dug into the flags' background, Maberry was first puzzled and then delighted by the lack of information available. "It's an historian's dream to find a subject people care about that's never had scholarly work done on it before," he said. Texas Flags was born.

The book has earned prestigious awards from the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Historical Foundation, the East Texas Historical Society and the Texas State Historical Association. It ranks as one of Texas A&M Press' all-time top-selling history books. Now 29 historic Texas flags will be back on display in a two-year traveling exhibit sponsored by TCU's Center for Texas Studies. The exhibit opened at the Bob Bullock State History Museum in Austin on Feb. 28 and runs through Aug. 22.

It will grace the El Paso Museum of Art from Sept. 12 through Jan. 9, 2005, and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station from Aug. 5, 2005, through Dec. 7, 2005. It will be in Fort Worth at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame from Dec. 29, 2005, until Feb. 12, 2006.

Texas Flags is available at most bookstores. For more information, call 817-257-6295 or visit www.texasstudies.org.

Sixth Texas Cavalry Battalion/Gould's Battalion/Stars and Bars Variant, from the Civil War, probably around 1862. This homespun variant of the Confederate First National Flag displays no less than three different Texas "lone" stars.

Sidney Sherman's Company San Jacinto Battle Flag from the Texas Revolution, 1836. Cincinnati artist James H. Beard painted this flag, which led Sam Houston's Texian army at the Battle of San Jacinto. This is all that is left of a wonderful work of art.

Fourth Texas Infantry/Hood's Texas Brigade/Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag/Silk Pattern Variant/Wigfall Presentation Flag from the Civil War, 1861. This flag led the Fourth Texas Infantry at the battles of Second Manassas and Antietam before being sent home to be displayed in the state Capitol. It was saved from capture as the war ended when Texas veterans buried it outside Austin.

Twenty-fourth U.S./Infantry/"Buffalo Soldiers"/Regimental Color from the West Texas frontier in 1869. This African-American infantry regiment not only battled hostile Indians but performed the harsh day-to-day tasks, such as scouting, surveying, building roads and escorting wagon trains, that made western settlement possible.

Guerrero Battalion/Mexican Tricolor Battle Flag from the Texas Revolution, 1836. This finely embroidered flag displays an elaborate version of the eagle and snake national arms of Mexico.

Fifth Texas Infantry/Hood's Texas Brigade/Army of North Virginia Battle Flag Variant/Mrs. Young Flag from the Civil War, 1862. Houston educator and philanthropist Maude Young gave this flag to the regiment. It was present at the famous "General Lee to the rear" episode during the Battle of the Wilderness.

First Texas Cavalry/U.S. Volunteers/National Color from the Spanish-American War, 1898. After Congress declared war against Spain following the destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana, Texans flocked to the colors. The Stars and Stripes of the First Texas Cavalry, an all-volunteer regiment, is testament to their enthusiasm.

Sixth Texas Infantry and Fifteenth Texas Calvary (consolidated)/Granbury's Texas Brigade/Hardee Battle Flag from the Civil War, 1864. Texas troops, whenever possible, embellished their flags with a representation of the Lone Star, as seen on on this well-worn regimental color.

Unidentified Texas Unit/Taylor Battle Flag, possibly from the Civil War, 1865. This style is named for Gen. Richard Taylor, who commanded Texas troops in Louisiana, and reversed the colors of the most famous Confederate battle flag.

Twentieth Texas Infantry/Stars and Bars Variant from the Civil War, 1861. This spectacular First Confederate National Flag was made in Galveston and originally displayed a painting on the center strip.


Robert Maberry Jr. '87 (MA) (PhD '92) was the historian for the Texas Historical Commission's Historic Flags of Texas Project. He curated the Texas Flags exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2002 and authored Texas Flags, published by Texas A&M Press in association with the MFAH.

Maberry, an adjunct history faculty member at TCU, is on the steering committee for TCU's Center for Texas Studies. He also serves on the boards of the Grady McWhiney Foundation and the Texas Historical Foundation. He has a full-time dental practice in Lake Worth and lives in Fort Worth with his wife, Anita.