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Guide to the Naval History Society Collection
1721-1995 (bulk 1781-1936)
  MS 439

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Celia Hartmann.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 09, 2019
Description is in English

Container List

Series 42. Sarah Smith Stafford (1877-1895)

Scope and Content

The series consists of one volume, privately printed by Press of E.B. Stillings & Co., Boston, documenting the history of the flag that purportedly flew over John Paul Jones's (see Series 28) ship Bon Homme Richard. Bound into it are letters dated 1877 from the flag's owner Sarah Smith Stafford to John Sanford Barnes (see Series 3), detailing its history and her family's connection to the flag, a newspaper clipping from the Chicago   Tribune, and a photograph of the flag. The clipping is from the papers of Richard Worsam Meade 3rd (see Series 31) in the library of his son, Richard Worsam Meade 4th, and was presented to the Naval History Society by his widow on May 3, 1934.

Historical Note

Part of the romance and power of John Paul Jones's role in revolutionary history is the probably apocryphal story of his having flown the first American flag over his vessel Bon Homme Richard. From that ship, according to often-repeated stories, the flag fell into the ocean, was rescued by young Lt. James Stafford, and given to him by Jones in thanks for his bravery. His daughter, Sarah Smith Stafford became the flag's owner and then willed it to her brother Samuel Bayard Stafford. It was eventually donated to the Smithsonian Institution, which exhibited it until the 1930s when it was determined not to be authentic and removed from view.

Container 1     Title Date
Volume: 1 History of the Flag of the Frigate The Bon Homme Richard, owned by the late Miss Sarah Smith Stafford and willed by her to her brother Samuel Bayard Stafford

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