Wilfred C. Clausen Collection

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Clausen #012
LOC:           

Wilfred Clair Clausen
1908-1972

by Carolyn Clausen Harrell

Born: June 26, 1908 Died: June 04, 1972

One might think that my father was born and raised in Hanover, Pa. because of his knowledge and interest in this town. He was born in Bloomington, Illinois. His fatherís position with mid-western gas companies required the family to move several times while he was growing up in the mid-western states.-Winoma, Minnesota, Vincennes, Indiana and Iron Mountain, Michigan where Will graduated from High School in 1925. Soon after, his family moved to Hanover when his Father, William Clausen, was assigned to manage the Conewago Gas Co. and was instrumental in preparing that company and the town for the conversion to natural gas, replacing manufactured gas.(1936) Earlier, Wilfred had enrolled in Dickinson College in Carlisle as a history major.

The depression and WW2 sent Will in another direction. He was unable to continue his college

The photo above was taken at Great Lakes, IL in 1945 at the age of 35. He was involved in boat training at the time. He joined the Navy on Dec. 18th 1943 and was discharged on Dec. 20th, 1945.

pursuit. He married at age 27 in 1936. He supported his wife, her mother, and their baby daughter with his job as a collector and meter reader at the gas company, and a second job of refinishing and selling antiques to dealers in Gettysburg and York, Pa.

Thus his love of history served him well in tracking down antiques as he entered homes as a serviceman for the gas company. He acquired many of his antiques through these ordinary entries, and inquiring if the owner would sell a piece. He also regularly attended Crawfordís auctions held at their auction room on Carlisle Street, as well as many other auctions.

In 1943 he was drafted into the Navy, one of the older draftees at age 35. He was sent to Great Lakes for training and later shipped out to an island in the Pacific Marianas, Tinian. There he was part of a small select unit that worked on assembling the atomic bomb. He flew on the Enola Gay during a practice mission. 8 months of his 2 years in the Navy were spent on Tinian. He spoke very little of his war time experiences or the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 which initiated from the island of Tinian. Returning to Hanover in December of 1945, he continued working with the gas company.

Willís love of history also led him to explore the history of Hanover, along with the historic buildings and lay-out of the town. Many families in Hanover had their roots here, and he would speak to these local people and gather historic backgrounds. He was an extremely humble man, smiling, and kind. He was never a wealthy man, but always known for his generosity.

He was an avid reader with what, I think, might have been a photographic mind. Hanoverís connection to Gettysburg and the Civil War in our area became another hobby. Soon he was called upon to give private tours of this area to historians visiting at Gettysburg. At about this time, the Hanover Area Historical Society (HAHS) was being formed by a small core of interested citizens. The HAHS. honored him with the presentation of their first membership card.

Among contributions that Will had made to the community, one was in recognizing the historic value of the Forney Farm property during the Civil War. When this farm home was sold and dismantled in 1961 to make way for a supermarket- Will, by himself, took down the interior paneling from the home, restored it in his garage workshop, and placed it in the Hanover Public Library where it stands today.

In the Ď60's, he also commissioned two young artists in Hanover to paint several oil painting of scenes in Hanover during the Civil War. He donated these paintings to the library and they are still hanging there. One of those artists went on to become quite renowned in the Chesapeake Bay Area- the late, Reuben Becker. The other, Raymond Dubbs, is a Hanover businessman.

As Will visited homes in the area, he began an extensive collection of historic photographs. He was encouraged by Amelia and Fischer Ehrhart. Later that collection became the basis of an ever-growing collection at the public library and at the Historic society.

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.

Wilfred C. Clausen Flag Collection 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:

  • The Exploration Period from the time of the Vikings.

  • The Colonial Period and a carving of the nation from the wilderness.

  • The Revolutionary War.

  • The Civil War. The War of 1812

  • Both World Wars.

  • The Expansion and Growth of our country to 50 states.

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 the final celebration was 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 2 Hanover ladies to do the machine sewing. Mrs. Elizabeth Botterbush of 1 N. Penn St., and later Mrs. Lily (Ralph) Wherley of 26 George St., Hanover, Pa.. Some original flags had hand-painted designs, and Willís reproductions were also hand-painted by him.

Signs with miniature photos-and-paintings of each flag were created and lettered by Richard B.Garrett of Stevens Circle, Hanover, Pa. Diller Wierman, whose business was at 20 W. Park Ave., Hanover, Pa. made the sign holders. Richard Bair at the Hanover Scrap Processing Company provided the bases and aluminum tubing to Will, who then made the flag poles. A company in Littlestown made the balls which topped the poles.

Programs

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.

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 viewed by thousands. Will and his displays in the Capitol had 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 large- from young children, scouts, school groups to 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 at which time he had set a goal of 200 flags. 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 Pa. 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.