Many in our hobby like to pursuit the very first time “they put it in print” and the “it” can be a very wide range of announcements, reports, or images. Certainly first reports of major 18th and 19th century battles have been among the favored issues of collectors, and most certainly the first printing of ht Declaration of Independence in a newspaper commands a considerable premium among those who are able to consummate that pursuit.
Two collectors, Michael Zinman and Steve Lomazow, raised an interesting question: what newspaper was the first to include a print of the U.S. flag within its pages? After discovering several newspapers from 1847 and then 1840 with flag engravings, we found in our database the “True American & Commercial Advertiser” from Philadelphia, 1806 which incorporates a U.S. flag (albeit a small engraving: see photo) within the masthead image (see sample ). The newspaper actually began in 1798 but that didn’t mean the masthead engraving was there. Typically mastheads change, often several times, through the life cycle of a newspaper.
But a confirmation from Vincent Golden, newspaper librarian at the American Antiquarian Society, which has holdings of this title going back to issue number 1, confirms the engraving with the flag is, indeed, present with that very first issue.
So this sets the earliest appearance of the U.S. flag in a newspaper at July 1, 1798. But I’m not convinced this is the earliest date. Are any of you collectors aware of an earlier appearance? Check your collections and share with the rest of us!