Stars & Service

By: Hannah Brevoort

If you or your students have a loved one in the military, you may be familiar with service flags. Service flags are rectangular banners featuring blue or gold stars that can be hung outside a home or business to signify that a family member is serving in the military (blue) or lost their life while serving (gold). Service flags were first used during World War I, and like many historical objects they have an Ohio connection!

A shield-shaped service flag. This flag can also be seen in the World War I Display at the Ohio History Center.

World War I Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser of the 5th Ohio Infantry designed and patented the service flag in 1917. Both of his sons were at the front and he wanted a way to commemorate their service. By September of that year the state of Ohio formally recognized the service flag as a symbol for military families to display. On September 24, 1917, an unnamed Ohio congressman read into the Congressional Record that service flags should be adopted nationwide. Blue and Gold Star Mothers organizations began during World War I as well.

We are fortunate at the Ohio History Center to be able to display some of these early service flags alongside other military collections in our World War I display commemorating the 100th anniversary of United States involvement in the war. Alongside the service flags you can see helmets from American and German troops, objects from fighter pilots (including Columbus’s flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker) and much more.

If you would like to visit the Ohio History Center with your students and learn about World War I through real objects, reservations for school field trips can be made through [email protected].

For more history of service flags:

There are lots of rules about who can display service flags and when. Learn more about these rules:

Posted September 2, 2017

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