A rare set of flags exhibited in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s White House Oval Office will be auctioned this week. The flags were displayed during Eisenhower’s second term, which was highlighted by Alaska and Hawaii’s addition to the United States. During this term, Eisenhower appointed Charles Evans Whittaker and Potter Stewart to the Supreme Court, among five Supreme Court justices he appointed during his presidency. As the flags being auctioned hung in his office, Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, famously placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and deployed the 101st Airborne Division to protect nine black students entering the newly integrated Little Rock Central High in Arkansas. Eisenhower’s civil rights work — the first significant legislation since 1875 — set the stage for subsequent strong future legislation during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
The set of two flags were displayed for two years. The first flag features the 48-star Presidential Coat of Arms; the second is the United States flag with 48-stars. Both flags were displayed in President Eisenhower’s Oval Office at the White House from January 20, 1957 until July 4, 1959. Most American Presidents receive one set of flags per four-year term. Eisenhower received four flag sets: 48-stars from his first term, another 48-stars for his second term and 49-stars and 50-stars respectively, when the flag was modified to include Alaska and Hawaii in the United States.
Due to the scarcity of Presidential Oval Office flags, they are considered a collectors’ item. In 2013, President John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Oval Office flag set sold for $425,000. The first Eisenhower 48-star Presidential Oval Office flag is housed at his Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas. The 49-star flag is in a private collection and the 50-star flag is also housed at the Eisenhower Library.
The flag set being auctioned belonged to Ludwell B. Pruett, who worked from 1958 to 1961 in the Flag Mission of the Quartermaster General’s Clothing & Textile Material Division. Pruett was responsible for all flags originating from the U.S. Army Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, the facility responsible for producing White House Oval Office flag sets. Unlike other U.S. flags, the Presidential Oval Office flags are uniquely hand-embroidered in the style known as needle painting and are made of silk. Presidential Oval Office flags are quite heavy because of the gold/silver metallic bullion fringe. To accommodate the flag weight, two doeskin leather tabs are sewn inside the sleeve; the flag pulls through the leather tabs more quickly and securely.
Since President Eisenhower already received the 48-star flag from his first term, the White House staff returned the set from his second term to the Flag Mission, where they were given to the Quartermaster for disposition. The set was then gifted to Pruett by his commanding officer, Lieutenant General Andrew T. McNamara, Quartermaster General from June 1957 to June 1961. Pruett would continue to work in the Flag Mission until 1961, when flag procurement was transferred to the Department of Defense.
The flags have been placed in storage since their display during President Eisenhower’s administration. The exception was when they were displayed at two exhibitions: at the House of Flags Museum in Columbus, North Carolina in October 2012 and at the official NAVA Convention [North American Vexillological Association] in Salt Lake City, Utah in October 2013.
The Oval Office flags come with a letter of authenticity from the family of Ludwell Pruett, and with copies of documents from Pruett’s employment with the Quartermaster General.
Bidding begins at $250,000.
Additional information on the flags can be found at