In 1993, in Southold, Long Island, New York, History enthusiast Gary Laube bought an old trunk in which he found balled up in the bottom some fabric. Soon Mr. Laube found this old military flag within. He lovingly unwrapped this flag and was amazed to discover the only flag from the Revolution. the French and Indian War periods, and before, with a "Tree" in the design that has survived the centuries of time.
In 2002, The New York Times wrote, "Rabbit Goody, a textile historian in Cherry Valley, N.Y., also studied the flag and found the woolen fabric and three ply hand-spun sewing thread consistent with Long Island textile production of the late 1600's.
"I'm convinced the Pine Tree flag is the oldest surviving Colonial flag. I've seen the other four, and Mr. Laube's is older. There are flags in England that were used in the American colonies, but they are later."
(Click on the photos to go to the websites of these two great patriots!)
This Southold Pine Tree flag provides two critical design elements not elsewhere seen, one the simple triangle shape tree, (rather than the elaborate, many-branched trees created by modern graphic artists)...
...and the other in the middle of the flag (hard to see in this photograph) is the inscription, 5th Regt. The upper and lower case of the font used in the inscription is a "clue" or "DNA strand" used to create a realistic reproduction of the design of the Washington Cruisers flag, the first flag flown on America's Navy ships.
The design was described in a letter dated 20 October 1775 by Colonel Joseph Reed, the Aide to General George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental forces, Army AND Navy, months before Rhode Island Militia Artillery General Esek Hopkins, brother of Stephen Hopkins of the Maritime Committee of the Continental Congress, was named as Commodore of the Continental Navy in December 1775.Washington's aide Colonel Reed wrote: "What do you think of a Flag with a white Ground, a tree in the middle, the motto (Appeal to Heaven.)"
See the Colonel Reed letter to Colonel Glover at the Library of Congress Digital Archives:
Commodore Hopkins "borrowed" some 200 soldier-sailors from General Washington's Army to first man his additional Navy ships beyond the first seven ships that were commissioned by General Washington with the consent of the Continental Congress and named for leaders of the "Fair Tax and Representation" efforts before it became a full "Revolution" months later. The "Washington Cruisers" were the Franklin, Hancock, Lee, Lynch, Warren and Washington.