World War I in Lawrence: Service flags go up around town

The Service Flag, whose stars were used to indicate family members who were serving in the armed forces, became widespread in the Second World War, but its origins date from 1917, when the first such flag was designed and patented. The new practice quickly caught on. “The first of the service flags are flying in Lawrence,” the Journal-World reported on Nov. 2. “For some time the service flags have been in popular use in eastern cities, but only within the last few days have the flags appeared in Lawrence. Mrs. Clara Kanaga has a flag with one star while the Sigma Chi fraternity has a flag with nineteen stars on it. This number indicates the number of men who entered the service while in the active chapter of Sigma Chi…. In some eastern cities the flags are provided by the cities, but in the majority of cities the individuals are encouraged to make and fly their own flags.” Another fraternity, Sigma Nu, hung a flag showing 30 stars. One of the earliest Lawrence homes to display the banner was that of Mr. and Mrs. August Weber, 500 Illinois, where “a service flag with four stars [was] proudly flying” for their sons –Alfred on the battleship Wisconsin, George and August Jr. at Fort Sill, and Fred, First Class Radio and Cable operator in Seattle.

Offices also displayed the banner. The Gazette newspaper office flew a flag with four stars, and the Kansas Telephone Company’s flag showed five. In late November, City Engineer E. H. Dunmire appealed to the city commission to allow him to purchase a flag honoring the “one captain, two or three lieutenants, two sergeants and one private” from his office. The service flag of the Journal-World made its appearance on Nov. 28, with 16 stars representing men from all departments of the newspaper in almost every military branch.