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Frank Gray

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1853 silk banner has another side

In 1853, somewhere in Fort Wayne, a procession was held celebrating the opening of the first free public school in the city.

Fittingly, a schoolboy took part carrying a banner, proclaiming the value of education.

There’s scarcely anything left in Fort Wayne dating from 1853. The school, as far as I know, is long gone.

The change in the pockets of the people who watched the procession is probably long gone, too, worn into undistinguishable disks or lost through the decades.

But somehow that silk banner, made by Mrs. A.S. Hulburd, the wife in the husband-wife team who were in charge of the school, survived. The Hulburds kept it.

Eventually the Hulburds ended up in New York City, and one day a former Fort Wayne resident visited the city and called on Hulburd.

The visitor, it turned out, was the boy who carried the banner in that procession years before, so Hulburd gave the banner to the man, named Amos Richey.

It was appropriate to Hulburd, who remembered the event and remembered that Richey was the one who carried the banner.

Most people would probably toss an old piece of silk like that, wondering what it was and seeing no reason to keep it.

But the Richeys hung on to it, and in 1928, after Richey had died and 75 years after it was displayed for the first time, his daughter gave it to the Historical Society Museum,

That’s how things get preserved. People just hang on to them and remember exactly where they fit in history.

Eventually the banner, which included a drawing of a woman on a pedestal that read “education” and “virtue,” ended up at the History Center, where one side has been hanging in the center’s first-floor display on local education.

There’s a catch. Only one side is on display. The other side – everyone knew there was another side – was in storage somewhere.

That’s the way it is with museums everywhere, big and small.

Lots of pieces remain in storage.

Not long ago, though, workers started to recatalog some items that were in storage, specifically shoes.

At the bottom of a box of shoes, carefully preserved, wrapped in an acid-free container was an unexpected find.

The other side of the banner.

It read “Republicanism.” And the sayings, Knowledge is power, Our march is onward.

It is a curious item, and as time goes on, items become curiouser and curiouser.

That’s what time does.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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