Hudson’s Traveling Flag

Its sheer size was daunting, measuring 230 feet by 90 feet, the Hudson’s Flag, created in the early 1920s, was not only affixed to the façade of the famed Detroit department store, but became a part of the great American landscape with journeys to Washington, D.C. and the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Originally unfurled on the Woodward Avenue side of Hudson’s in 1923, the flag journeyed to Washington D.C. in 1929, and was affixed to the façade of the United States Capitol Building. Three Michigan Congressmen were present as the flag was unfurled by the Honor Guard, from left to right, Earl C. Michener, Carl E. Mapes, and Grant M. Hudson (no relation).

Nine years later, the flag traveled to Flushing Meadows–Corona Park for the 1939 World’s Fair, however the flag arrived in 1938. As construction continued, on Armistice Day, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia stood in front of the flag and dedicated the Fair’s Court of Peace. The flag returned to Detroit, and hung on the façade for ten more years, before its retirement in 1949.

Trylon and Perisphere in the background at the World’s Fair.

A new giant flag debuted in 1950. The second, larger flag weighed approximately 1,600 pounds, used 2,038 yards of wool, covered seven stories of the department store’s façade and took 55 men to hang it. After our nation’s bicentennial in 1976, the flag was officially retired and donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Search for more images of the Hudson’s flag in our online collections.

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