Our 47 Star Flag
Hanging on the wall of a tavern in Blue Lake in northern California, owned by a former Alamogordo resident, Mr. Wade Topping, was a piece of history. Made of fine wool, it has thirteen red and white stripes, with stars on a blue background in the upper left hand corner. In fact, it has five rows of eight stars and one row of seven. This unusual piece of history possibly ignored by the many patrons of the bar, but not its owner, was a 47 Star Flag depicting the entry of the state of New Mexico into the union of states.
Mr. Topping counted the stars on the large flag three times. Each time his count was the same, 47! Knowing the history of New Mexico, the significance of the flag dawned on him. He decided to donate the flag to his hometown museum, the Tularosa Basin Historical Society Museum in Alamogordo, New Mexico
In his speech to the Tularosa Basin Historical Society at the Flag Dedication in February, 1999, Mr. Topping stated, "I counted the stars and saw it was a forty-seven star flag. It immediately hit me. I said, ‘Boy! New Mexico and Arizona came in to the Union in 1912 right next to each other.’ " He not only donated the flag to the Museum, but fiscally assisted in placing the flag in its protective display case.
On January 6, 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state to join the Union. Arizona quickly followed, becoming the 48th state on February 14, 1912. Therefore, there was never an official United States 47 star flag. This is done only in July of each year following a change in the number of states. However, someone somewhere produced a few 47 Star Flags in that short period of time.
Another 47 Star Flag resides in the Museum at the Palace of Governors in Santa Fe. Curator Diana De Santis at the Palace has informed us that in researching their flag, she contacted Dr. Whitney Smith at the Flag Research Center. Dr. Smith stated that the Center did not have a 47 Star Flag, but he referred her to Mr. Nicholas Artimovich, a well known flag collector.
He also stated that flag manufacturers normally jump the gun in producing flags for the forthcoming new states, but it doesn't appear to have occurred in this case. Thus, we presently know that there are only two 47 Star Flags in existence for the public to see and for researchers to study
Our 47 Star Flag, in its archival display case at the Museum, is on exhibit for all to see and enjoy.
Special Note of Interest: In our Book Store, we sell a book entitled, New Mexico: A Distant Land, which has an article with pictures about our Museum and this flag.
Tularosa Basin Historical Society.
The prize item in the collection is a 47-star U. S. flag.  :145-146 New Mexico was admitted to the union as the 47th state on January 6, 1912, followed by Arizona as the 48th state on February 14, 1912. The Flag Act of 1818 specifies "That on the admission of every new state into the Union, one star be added to the union of the flag; and that such addition shall take effect of the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission." On July 4, 1912, the official flag design jumped from 46 to 48 stars, and there never was an official 47-star flag.
The provenance of the museum's 47-star flag is unknown, although it presumably was manufactured to celebrate New Mexico's entry into the Union. The flag hung for many years in a bar in Blue Lake, California. The bar owner, Wade Topping, a former resident of Alamogordo, recognized the significance of the flag and donated it to the museum in 1999.
The 47-star flags are very rare and the number in existence is unknown. One flag is in the collection of the Museum at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The curator at the Palace, Diana De Santis, researched the subject and also found a reported 47-star flag in the collection of the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland. Bob Adamowski of Bellevue, Washington donated a 47-star flag to the Smithsonian Institution in 2005.
Other museum features
The museum collection holds personal accounts, relics and photographs of local history. It holds a bison trophy head, a collection of pottery from the La Luz Pottery Factory, and artifacts from prehistoric Native American tribes that were found in caves above Alamogordo. The collection includes over 3,000 historical photographs of the local area and an archive of historical documents.
The museum gift shop sells all TBHS publications and man