Just got this press release. Too bad that it happened, but it’s a good thing it’s back in the custody of the state.
Original State Flag of South Dakota Recovered by Attorney General’s Office and Criminal Charges Anticipated
PIERRE, S.D – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the original State Flag of South Dakota that was missing has now been recovered by the Attorney General’s Office. The Secretary of State’s Office began an internal investigation for the missing State Flag in January 2015, and ultimately reported the missing flag to South Dakota Legislative Audit. On July 15, 2015, South Dakota Legislative Audit referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office. The Division of Criminal Investigation conducted an investigation and recovered the flag from a former Secretary of State employee on October 8, 2015 in Washington D.C.
“The recovery of the South Dakota’s original State Flag preserves an important part of our history for the citizens of South Dakota. I want to extend my appreciation to the Secretary of State’s Office for their assistance and cooperation throughout this investigation. Criminal charges are anticipated to be released in the near future,” said Jackley.
History of the State Flag noted in the 2011 SD Blue Book:
“In 1909 Senator Ernest May of Deadwood came into the Historical Society office. Seth Bullock wanted a state flag. May asked Doane Robinson about it and was told by Robinson that Ida Anding, now Mrs. McNeil, former operator of KGFX radio of Pierre, who was then a stenographer in the Historical offices, would design him a flag. She did. It was a blazing sun, on an azure background. May liked the design, and Senate Bill 208 was introduced. On the floor later, he moved that ‘on the reverse of the blazing sun shall appear the Great Seal of the State of South Dakota in dark blue.’ This was adopted and the bill passed. Money to buy two flags was appropriated. One went to the Secretary of State, and Seth Bullock of Camp No. 1, United Spanish Veterans of South Dakota, got the other.”
I have a bit of emotion with this, because I was the one who recommended that the flag be removed from display.
One of the office’s lesser known roles involves some historic items and documents. One of my early tasks was to retrieve the official state seal described in law. It had been hanging in the Governor’s office since it’s creation under Governor Janklow, and…. well, I wanted the latest incarnation of the seal to be with the Secretary of State – the Keeper of the seal.
That, and it wasn’t under glass or anything. Just the seal painted on wood by the current artist of the seal, John Moisan.
So, very early on, I contacted the Governor’s office and asked for it back before anyone was really used to it being there. Governor Daugaard sent it right over, and we worked with state archives to update the 20-25 year old photo of the seal (duplicated over and over until you couldn’t tell what color it was) with modern imaging techniques. The result was a very high quality and accurate scan of the seal which is used in many instances today.
From there, the seal was stored as part of our collection in the State Archives.
We also sent up to archives all the old copies of session laws, and historic legislative documents, many of which were now old leather bound original proceedings. Some of the oldest had coffee stains from spills while the area was used as a Lobbyist coffee area over the years. So, it was good that they went over.
And then there was the flag. It had been hanging in the office on a pole for a great number of years, and was just kind of “there.” One day, as I was working on a project, we laid it across the table in the conference room, and discovered the manner in which it was attached to the pole. By a old partially rusty nail. And at the points of attachment, the flag was badly deteriorating. The fringe was all coming off in the area, and the fabric of the flag itself was unraveling.
It was in tough shape from years of display, so the decision was made to take it down in favor of coming up with a more conservation-friendly manner of display, and the flag was neatly folded up and stored in a cool and dry area. We had been working with Buildings and Grounds on costs, and their availability to construct a display (which would have to be of considerable size), finding out they were months out from availability. And we also had to figure out where to put it.
Shortly thereafter, I left the office. As I understand it, it continued to be pended in the face of costs, carpenter availability and other activities. It’s not like the SOS office doesn’t have other things to do.
Early on this year, I heard about the new administration not being able to find it, and it seemed that it might have just been misplaced. In fact, I sent a note indicating where I remember it being, and the manner in which it was stored. But, according to the release today, apparently that’s not where it was.
Despite what’s noted in the release, I’ll note up front that the provenance of the flag recovered isn’t exactly clear. The description above, which I wrote for the 2011 Blue Book, says of the two flags that were authorized under Senate Bill 208, one flag went to the Secretary of State. But it’s unclear that the flag on display on the office was THE flag that was given to the SOS in 1909, as opposed to a very early flag produced at a later date. It was the one in the office as an early state flag, but I don’t know that we ever reviewed any historic documents proving it was THE original. But, it was thought to be as such.
As you’ll note in my picture, the seal on the flag appears to be printed in some manner, which is what made me question it myself. But, the fabric is certainly consistent with the era.
With the flag recovered, hopefully it can be sent up to state archives for repair and display at the cultural heritage center. And it would be nice if they can review and determine the actual provenance of the now returned flag, proving or disproving whether it was the original.
Yeah, it was too bad that an employee treated it like a pen, and ran off with it. But, if it is the genuine article, it’s best that it’s back home, and can get the care that was intended for it.