Local History: Vermont political history

I have bought, sold, and collected historical documents and artifacts for 50 years. Many antiques dealers and collectors throughout New England know this. They sometimes contact me when they have an item of interest.

Ralph Flanders' Vermont flag. Photo by Ron Patch
Ralph Flanders’ Vermont flag. Photo by Ron Patch

Last week, I was offered a rather important collection of historical items belonging to Ralph E. Flanders of Springfield. When we completed the deal, the woman said, “I knew you’d buy it.”

She’s been dealing and collecting longer than I have, and I’ve been at it 50 years. You might say, “She’s been around since Moby Dick was a minnow.”

Ralph Flanders, 1880 to 1970

Much has been written about Flanders. Flanders was a United States Senator from Vermont from 1946 to 1959.

The collection

Top is R.E. Flanders' leather case. Bottom typewritten label on flagpole. Photo by Ron Patch
Top is R.E. Flanders’ leather case. Bottom typewritten label on flagpole. Photo by Ron Patch

Most important is a flag with the Vermont state seal. When I saw the flag, I got excited.

The wooden flagpole is 36 inches long. There is a leather case, lined with silk, to protect the flag. Printed in gold letters on the leather is, “Ralph E. Flanders.” When you unroll the flag, you first notice the Vermont state seal is handpainted, not printed. It’s a thing of beauty.

The flag measures about 19 inches by 24 inches and made of muslin. There’s an old typewritten label affixed to the wooden pole that reads, “Displayed in the office of Senator Flanders in the Senate Office Building in Washington and also on his Automobile during Cavalcades.”


Chiang Kai Shek document. Photo by Ron Patch
Chiang Kai Shek document. Photo by Ron Patch

Chiang Kai Shek

Next is a framed document to Flanders dated Jan. 27, 1947 from Chiang Kai Shek. It’s a document thanking Flanders for his help training Chinese countrymen in American technical methods during World War II.


MIT medals

There are two bronze medals from MIT. Both medals are set in Lucite with captions to Flanders. One caption is: “Ralph E. Flanders, Special Term Member of the Corporation, 1937-1940, Life Member 1940.”

The other medal: “Mid-Century Convocation 1949 Ralph E. Flanders.”


There’s a framed handwritten poem titled, “The Secret Heart” by Robert Peter Tristam Coffin to Helen Hartness Flanders. In the lower left is a wonderful inscription from Coffin: “For Helen Hartness Flanders, my best poem, because she has a son in the Naval Air Force as I have, and because, being a poet, she made us at home, in her home in Vermont.”

"The Secret Heart." Photo by Ron Patch
“The Secret Heart.” Photo by Ron Patch


There are two books. One is a first edition copy written by Ralph E. Flanders titled, “Senator from Vermont,” published in 1961.

The other book is a second edition titled, “Vermont Folk-Songs & Ballads.” This book’s title explains the content. It was a joint effort of Helen Hartness Flanders and George Brown.

The value of these two books is minimal by themselves. But to know Mr. and Mrs. Flanders held these books helps.

Years ago, I used to get excited by something I hadn’t owned before. But after 50 years, I seldom see anything today I haven’t seen before. This is true.

This collection did excite me. No, it’s not for sale, and I promised the seller that it would remain in Vermont. We both felt strongly about that.





Two bronze MIT awards. Photo by Ron Patch
Two bronze MIT awards. Photo by Ron Patch

From Wikipedia

  “In 1910, he moved to Springfield, Vermont to work as a mechanical engineer for the Fellows Gear Shaper Company. He was already friendly with James Hartness, the president of the Jones & Lamson Machine Company (J&L), another company in town. In 1911, Flanders married Hartness’ daughter, Helen. Shortly afterwards, Hartness hired Flanders as a manager of the department at J&L that built the Fay Automatic lathe, Flanders redesigned that lathe to achieve higher productivity and accuracy. He became a director in 1912 and president of the company in 1933 after Hartness retired. As president of J&L, Flanders implemented a continuous production line to manufacture the Hartness Turret Lathe instead of building each machine individually, attempting to bring some of the efficiencies of mass production to machine tool building. By 1923, he had acquired and assigned more than twenty patents to J&L”

I recommend you take the time to look up Ralph E. Flanders and his wife Helen Hartness. Both have a fascinating history. Flanders is known for introducing a 1954 motion in the United States Senate to censure Sen. Joe McCarthy. At the time, McCarthy claimed communists had infiltrated our government and Hollywood.

If I did want to sell this collection, it would have broad appeal. It is Springfield history, Vermont history, and most importantly national political history. God I love this stuff!

  This week’s old saying: “There’s never a bad time to make a good investment.”


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