REMEMBER WHEN EVANSVILLE WAS HOME OF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FLAG

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REMEMBER WHEN EVANSVILLE WAS HOME OF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FLAG

by JOHNNY KINCAID

MAY 31, 29024

In 1980, Evansville’s Anchor Industries was selected to take on a monumental task: they would sew together the world’s most enormous flag. The red and white stripes were 16 feet wide, and the stars were 13 feet tall. The finished flag covered two acres. 

The flag was made to withstand the wind and weather while hanging off New York’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It was not only the longest (450 feet) but also the heaviest, weighing 7 tons.

The giant flag was the brainchild of Len Silverfine, a former New York ad executive. The thought started with Silverfine’s desire to build a float for a 4th of July parade marking the Bicentennial in 1976. The idea morphed into hanging a behemoth of a flag from a bridge in New York harbor to greet the tall sailing ships that were a part of the Independence Day celebration.

He secured a $10,000 sponsorship and paid to have a flag made in time for the 4th of July. The flag arrived on June 28 and was hoisted up the rigging of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as a test before the big day. Shortly after the unfurling, the winds picked up and exposed one critical flaw: no accommodation allowed the air to flow through the fabric. As air pressure pinned the flag to the rigging, it became impossible to lower the flag, and the material gave way; the flag was ripped to shreds, causing one of the busiest bridges in NYC to close during rush hour.

Four years later, Silverfine was ready to have a new flag made, and Anchor Industries was ready to take on the world’s biggest sewing project. The Anchor employees lined up every day for the opportunity to help sew the flag together.

Len Silverfine’s vision for the flag to be proudly displayed on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was never realized. The flag has only been displayed about a dozen times. The Great American Flag still rests in the original trailer provided by Atlas Van Lines in 1980, located just a few miles from where it was last displayed. 

The current owner of the flag is a former stockbroker from Pennsylvania who purchased it from an auction on TV that took place on July 4, 2001. The flag arrived at Ted Dorfman’s home in August, and then on September 11, 2001 some of the stock brokers that Ted knew died in the twin towers and a passenger jet crashed into the ground just up the road from where Ted lived. The last display of the flag took. Place in the days after 9/11 near the crash site.

FOOTNOTE: PHOTO CAPTION People from Evansville participated in the unfurling of the flag in Washington DC on Flag Day 1991.

 

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