Thomas Connelly, one of our nation’s leading experts on the American Flag, shared his vast knowledge of the flag with the Williamson community during a General Assembly spring semester and that talk is now available for your enjoyment.
He opened his presentation saying, “I don’t collect flags, I collect American artwork at its best” because he considers flags to be works of art.
During his talk, he explained in detail, several historical curiosities, including: Betsy Ross did sew the first flag; George Washington was our ninth president, not the first; we became an independent country in 1783 after winning the Revolution, not 1776; our government is the longest running government in the world; and there have been 37 versions of our flag, but only 25 official versions.
Connelly began collecting flags in the early 1980s and his collection grew at one point to 120 flags making it one of the most important collections in existence. During his talk he pointed out, “There are only 17 flags left from the 18th century and three of them are on this stage.” His collection has been referenced in many publications and includes a flag flown on April 30, 1789, when George Washington was sworn into office as President of the United States.
At the conclusion of his talk, Connelly presented President Michael Rounds with a flag from 1888, the year Williamson was founded. The flag contains 38 stars and was hand-sewn.
Connelly is the retired chief executive of Connelly Container Inc. in Philadelphia and as a trustee of the Connelly Foundation has been a friend to Williamson for more than two decades, supporting many important efforts instrumental to the college’s growth.