Wilfred Clair Clausen
1908-1972

Historic Flag Collection ( 1965-1972)

Mr. Clausen's daughter, Carolyn Clausen Harrell, gifted the Collection
to The Hanover Area Historical Society, PA on June 14, 1993


Note: Many of the descriptions in these pages have been written by Carolyn Clausen Harrell in an effort to consolidate the collection. She used sources that were available from her father's original research. The Society is currently vetting the text portions presented here. These pages will change as the vetting process takes place and additional information is added. Comments and additions should be emailed to Paul Hentz [Webmaster, Hanover Public School District].


Most older Hanoverians will remember Will for his Flag Collection which appeared in many programs, displays, articles in the Evening Sun, and parades in Hanover. This collection was gifted to the Hanover Historical Society upon the death of his wife, Harriet Clausen.

 

Will Clausen preparing for a 1971 display of the collection for the Historical Society.

In the mid 1960's, the flag faced some of its most trying challenges. Aroused by both domestic and foreign issues, some Americans denounced, defaced, and burned the flag. It was in response to this flag desecrating that Will Clausen conceived, and began his positive response in 1965.

 

He felt if people understood the history behind our flag, there would be fewer who would desecrate a flag, and many others would raise theirs higher. Will felt that if more people could visualize the role which flags have played in our nationís history, there would be no question of its value as a symbol of human dignity and liberty.

 

This collection of 78 hand-made reproductions of historical American flags offers an opportunity to view American history in an exciting and unique way.

 

The flags trace the important periods and events in American History:

Reproducing the Flags

 

The Hanover Area Historical Society (HAHS) came into being in 1965, having been originated by a small group of individuals with a keen interest in history. Willís goal was to create a display for the Hanover Heritage Days. Heritage Days began in 1965 to celebrate the bicentennial of the founding of Hanover, and continued through the final celebration in May of 1966. Between September of 1965 and May of 1966, he researched and reproduced 27 flags at his home at 8 N. Penn Street in Hanover, Pa. Will was 58 at that time.

 

To make his flags, he found the earliest book references to that particular flag. He then used an opaque projector at one of the public schools to project the picture on to a large sheet of wallpaper to get an accurate design of the flag, and any lettering on it. The pattern that was thus created was then pinned to cotton material and cut out. Kressís Bargain Barn on Pleasant St., Hanover, PA ordered the materials. Many times materials were ordered from other parts of the country.

 

It is to be noted that Will used cotton in all his reproductions. However, the original historic flags were made from a variety of materials. Also Willís replicas were not the exact sizes as some of the originals which are still in existence and which can be viewed in museums around our country.

 

Will enlisted the talents of two Hanover ladies to do the machine sewing. Mrs. Elizabeth Botterbush (pictured above) of 1 N. Penn St., and later Mrs. Lily (Ralph) Wherley of 26 George St., Hanover, PA. (Mrs. Wherley is pictured to the right.) Some original flags had hand-painted designs, and Willís reproductions were also hand-painted by him.

 

Programs and Honors

 

This first display was set up around the then Hanover Square and was seen by the Congressman from the 19th District of Pa., Congressman Neiman Craley. He asked that the 27 flags be displayed in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. for June 14th, 1966, the 50th anniversary of Flag Day. (pictured left)

 

By June of 1967, the collection had grown to 44 flags, and, again, it was displayed in Statuary Hall at the request of then Congressman George Goodling and Speaker of the House, John McCormack. The display remained for several weeks and was viewed by thousands. Will and his displays in the Capitol have been mentioned twice in speeches published in the ďCongressional RecordĒ of 1966, and 1967.

 

Although these two programs achieved national fame, Will Clausen spoke to groups both small and largeófrom young children, scouts, school groups, senior citizens, and civic groups. His flags were displayed in the town square, in schools, and in public halls. A few of his reproductions have flown over the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, Md. Twelve were autographed in 1967 by state governors.

 

His goal of 200 flags for the 1976 Bicentennial was severed by his untimely death from cancer in 1972, just 22 days before his 64th birthday, and 4 years before the Bicentennial celebration for our country. The 78 reproductions provide a colorful and impressive memorial to the Stars and Stripes and to Wilfred Clair Clausen.

 

After his death, his wife, Harriet, loaned the collection many times to groups, in particular displays at the capitol of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. His daughter, Carolyn, and her husband carried out his wish to use the flags during the Bicentennial in 1976. In cooperation with Adelphi-Dowling College on Long Island, NY, and several of the public schools on Long Island, the flags were exhibited in programs and displays. After the death of Mrs. Clausen in 1992, the flag collection was donated to the Hanover Area Historical Society.

 

The last showing of the collection in its entirety, was in July of 2005 during Dutch Days in Wirt Park and the Residences at Hanover Shoe in an event sponsored by the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce.