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  Who made Apollo 11's American flag?

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Author Topic:   Who made Apollo 11's American flag?
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-01-2009 08:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did Dolores Black, a former flag seamstress from Milwaukee, sew the flag that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin deployed during the first manned lunar landing?

Video source: Fox Tampa Bay

According to a report by the Tampa Bay, Fla., Fox-affiliate, Black could find proof of her claim if she could inspect the flag on the Moon.

And all the way back on Earth, Dolores had a secret about that flag that no one else knew.

"Right before I sewed this webbing," Dolores says, pointing to a photo of the flag on the moon, "that's where I signed my name."

Black's recollection of events is at odds however, with previous accounts as described by NASA Contractor Report 188251, "Where No Flag Has Gone Before: Political and Technical Aspects of Placing a Flag on the Moon", published in 1993.

Although the report finds that "it is uncertain who manufactured the flag that was deployed by the Apollo 11 crew," the citations agree that the flown flag was bought off-the-shelf, either from a local store or through a government stock catalog.

According to a NASA Press Release of 3 July 1969, "the Stars and Stripes to be deployed on the Moon was purchased along with several others made by different manufacturers at stores in the area around the Manned Spacecraft Center near Houston. In order to attach the flag properly to its aluminum staff it was necessary to remove the binding and labels. For this reason the name of the manufacturer cannot be determined." (NASA Press Release 69-83E, 3 July 1969, on file at the JSC History Office).

In his book, "All We Did Was Fly to the Moon," (Gainesville, FL: Whispering Eagle Press, 1988), p. 121, Dick Lattimer states that the flags that went to the moon were made by Annin & Co. Randy Beard, Sr., of Annin contacted the Public Affairs Office at NASA Headquarters regarding the flag shortly after the moon landing. His company had supplied many flags to NASA throughout the manned space flight program.

Beard was told that three secretaries had been sent out to buy 3x5-foot nylon flags during their lunch hours. After they had returned it was discovered that all of them had purchased their flags at Sears. Annin was the official flag supplier for Sears at the time so this story seemed to confirm that the flag had been made by Annin.

Beard was informed that NASA would not confirm the manufacturer of the flag because they didn't "want another Tang" -- in other words, the agency did not want another advertising campaign based upon the fact that a commercial product had been used by the astronauts. (Randy Beard, Sr., Annin & Co., personal communication, 24 August 1992 and 10 September 1992.)

Jack Kinzler was unable to verify that the flags were purchased at local stores or that the labels were removed. His notes indicate that the flags were purchased from the Government Stock Catalog for $5.50. (Kinzler, interview, 30 August 1992.)

If Black's account is true, NASA special ordered the flag, otherwise she would have never known that the flag was destined for the Moon.

Manatee Community College in Florida has an art exhibit dedicated to Dolores Black, called "Black Flag on the Moon." The exhibit runs through June 18 and will run for an additional four weeks starting in late August.

Unfortunately, the truth may never be known. As described by Tony Reichhardt in the September 2008 issue of Air & Space Magazine, "the flag is probably gone."

Buzz Aldrin saw it knocked over by the rocket blast as he and Neil Armstrong left the moon 39 summers ago. Lying there in the lunar dust, unprotected from the sun's harsh ultraviolet rays, the flag's red and blue would have bleached white in no time. Over the years, the nylon would have turned brittle and disintegrated.

Photo credit: NASA


Posts: 1067
From: Leawood, Kansas USA
Registered: Oct 2003

posted 06-02-2009 02:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting story. From my previous research (with some help from Robert Pearlman, Eric Jones, and James Hansen) it was clear that no one knows the whole story where the flag came from and how it was deployed on the lunar module. From Platoff's article:
Because the final decision to fly the flag and attach the plaque was made so close to the launch date, a Lear jet was chartered to fly Kinzler, George Low (Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program), Low's secretary, the flag assembly, and the commemorative plaque to KSC before the launch. The flag and plaque were installed on the LM of Apollo 11 at 4:00 in the morning as the spacecraft sat atop its Saturn V rocket ready for launch. Kinzler had written an 11-step procedure for mounting the assembly on the ladder and personally supervised the installation.
I think the true identity of the flag's manufacturer will never be known and that this person's claim to be the seamstress would indeed be adding another "untold story" to the legacy of Apollo 11.

By the way, there are two Apollo 11 lunar plaques on the Moon, one made of steel attached to the LEM and one etched on the silicon disc.


Posts: 410
Registered: Dec 2002

posted 06-03-2009 04:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dsenechal   Click Here to Email dsenechal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A close look at AS11-40-5905 shows an "aftermarket fabric tube" across the top of the flag that holds the horizontal support rod. Is it possible that Delores' sewing consisted of making this modification?

As an aside, I've never understood the early reluctance to divulge the name of the flag maker. There was apparently no issue with Fisher Space Pens, Omega watches, or Hasselblad cameras. Why the concern over flags?


Posts: 262
From: Columbus, Ohio USA
Registered: Jan 2003

posted 06-03-2009 04:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DSeuss5490   Click Here to Email DSeuss5490     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
...possibly because someone totally forgot all about this important (but also somewhat minor) part of the Apollo 11 mission and at the last minute had to purchase a flag from the local Sears? That's certainly not something NASA is going to brag about. With respect to the seamstress, it would be nice to think that NASA planned the American Flag long before the mission and I do think that if she was the creator of the flag NASA would have given her the recognition she deserves. That would be quite an honor. Unfortunately IMHO I think the flag came from Sears or the 5 and 10. But I do have an autographed picture of this lady in my collection---just in case! Maybe this is something for "Unsolved Mysteries" to tackle!


Posts: 1067
From: Leawood, Kansas USA
Registered: Oct 2003

posted 06-04-2009 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A better view of the flag assembly is in Robert's original post.

The astronauts struggled to get the flag into the lunar surface crust and also struggled getting the telescoping arm to extend fully, giving it a wicked looking curled appearance.


Posts: 3111
From: San Diego
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 06-04-2009 03:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fox's report of Dolores Black as a "modern-day Betsy Ross" may be more accurate than they intended, considering there is considerable debate by historians over whether Ross made the first American flag, and only scant, inconclusive evidence (most of it oral, made decades after the fact by parties with personal interest in the outcome) to support such a claim...

I'm interested in hearing if any other evidence is found to support Dolores Black's claims, out of historical interest.


Posts: 542
From: Fort Worth, TX, USA
Registered: Feb 2005

posted 09-21-2009 09:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for benguttery   Click Here to Email benguttery     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was curious about the flags placed on the moon. What were they made of? I am sure there were a number of these made. Any in collector hands? It appears they have a horizontal bar to suspend them. I can imagine a flag kit that had all the parts and pieces required to fly a flag on the moon. Would love to hear more.

Editor's note: Threads merged.


Posts: 3276
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-21-2009 11:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regency Superior offered a prototype in their 2007 Spring auction.

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