Saturday, August 29, 2015

Seventy Years of Comic Strip Memories


Note:  Because my “down memory lane” posts on, first, soft drinks, and then candy, have received an extraordinary number of visits, it occurred to me to reminisce about comic strips that have had particular importance to me over the years, some of them, indeed, imitating life.

I have been a fan of the comics even before my ability to read, badgering relatives to read them for me.  The first “Superman” comic book, the cover shown right, appeared in June 1939, just about the time I was able to read on my own.   Like kids all over America during those years of World War Two, I was enthralled by the “Man of Steel,” who regularly was thrashing the Fascists.  That could be me in the picture left, able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  My cape was nowhere as nifty, however, just an old dish towel my mother furnished, bound at the neck by a large safety pin.  Nevertheless, as I recall, I ran around with it on for one whole summer,
“Blondie” may be the longest running comic strip in America, published in the newspapers since 1930, eighty-five years ago. I have been reading it for seventy.  Created by Cartoonist Chic Young and carried on by his son, the characters in Blondie have grown older by millimeters through the decades.   The scenes are the same:  Feckless and sandwich-loving Dagwood clashing with his irritable boss, Mr. Dithers; or conniving with or against his neighbor, Herb Woodley; or taking gentle rebukes from the ever-patient Blondie.  Timeless, the strip continues to delight.
My personal memory is of being in Hollywood in 1948 and sitting in the audience for the popular "Blondie" radio program that ran from 1939 until 1950.  The stars were Arthur Lake and Pennie Singleton as Dagwood and Blondie, shown above.  They played the same roles in movies.   The script writer for the radio show was a family friend from my Dad’s home town.  After the show we got a chance to meet him and Penny Singleton.  A thrill for a 14 year old.

Fast forward to college days when Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” was required reading.  Set in Okefenokee Swamp of the Southeastern U.S. and featuring the fuzzy-headed possum and his friends, the cartoon conveyed social and political satire.  Pogo is remembered today for having coined such aphorisms as:  “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  Also remembered is a character named “Simple J. Malarky,”  an obvious parody and caricature of the Republican senator from Wisconsin, Joseph “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy.  A wild-eyed, menacing bobcat who carries a shotgun, Malarky cum McCarthy easily intimidates the other denizens of the swamp.
While attending college in Milwaukee, I had an opportunity once to come up close and almost personal with McCarthy.   About 1954 the then Vice President Richard Nixon came to the Student Union at Marquette University to make a speech.  Senator McCarthy, by then in the doghouse with the Eisenhower Administration, plunked himself in the front row.  As a reporter for the student newspaper, I followed both men closely out of the building and saw Nixon give McCarthy a swift brushoff and jump in his limousine to avoid a conversation.  A telling moment.  The photo of Joe bears a striking resemblance to Walt Kelly’s likeness.


Shown left, her name was Anna Chennault, Chinese-born and the widow of an American war hero.  Living in a luxury Watergate apartment overlooking the Potomac River, she often visited the Congress to press her views and was widely known as the Dragon Lady.  In 1968, allegedly at the behest of Presidential Candidate Nixon, Ms. Chennault was reputed to have dynamited proposed talks between the United States and North Vietnam that might have shortened the Vietnam War war as much as seven years.
Another early comic strip favorite was Harold Gray’s “Little Orphan Annie.”  Later I would find its highly conservative messages from Annie’s “Daddy Warbucks” as distasteful, but initially was fascinated particularly by one character, called “Punjab the Wizard.”  Dark-skinned and wearing a turban, Punjab not only was a fierce fighter but had a magic cape he spread over enemies, a magic tunic that either took them away for good or brought them back limp and scared.  That cape would have come in handy to use on some kids I knew.

Little then did I know that I would encounter a living image of my childhood hero.  In 1978 I was a minor part of a U.S. delegation visiting the Prime Minister of India.   After driving to No. 7 Race Course Road and the dwelling shown below, we were ushered in and we were told we had 15 minutes to talk.  A figure dressed like Punjab, seemingly as big, and wearing a sword, escorted us into the meeting room and stood guard over the proceedings after the Prime Minister arrived. It was hard to take my eyes off him. I did not see the magic cape but imagined that if we overstayed our welcome, it quickly would have materialized.  We finished in 14 minutes and exited without mishap.
The final comic strip is my now and always favorite, “Peanuts.”  Having just finished an excellent lengthy biography of Charles Schulz,  I better understanding how the cartoonist’s frequently unhappy childhood and married life gave the bittersweet tang to the panels.  Shulz caught something about the angst and uncertainties of childhood and made them poignant and funny at the same time.  Although Schulz
died in 2000 and no one else is drawing the strip, the re-runs can last a long, long time and continue to be a daily treat.

Having read the comics every day for more than 70 years, I am struck by how often the images and messages they convey are replicated in real life.  As the anecdotes above indicate, I am not infrequently cast back into the “funny papers” by events that have occurred over the years and suspect similar incidents have happened to other fans of the comics as well.






















Friday, August 14, 2015

Mr. Pickwick — The “Old Gentleman” Advertising Alcohol

When British Author Charles Dickens created the character of Samuel Pickwick in 1837 he gave the world a kind and wealthy “Old Gentleman,” as he termed him, whose fondness for strong drink has followed his figure down through the centuries.  Captured in ceramics, glass, and newspaper ads, Mr. Pickwick, like W.C. Fields in our own day,* has become a classic icon for advertising alcoholic beverages.
Dickens' novel, written under the pseudonym “Boz” and known as “The Pickwick Papers,” follows his protagonist, perpetual president of the Pickwick Club, with three friends as they journey to places outside London in order to research the “quaint and curious phenomena of life.”  These excursions are lubricated by a great many drinks of punch, wine, and ale as the group traipses around England.  The original cover of Dickens' book indicates the alcoholic nature of the club’s “perambulations, perils, travels, adventures.”  The illustration at bottom shows Pickwick snoozing while fishing, presumably having imbibed deeply from a bottle sitting on the bow of his boat.
Royal Doulton Pottery, renowned for its “character” jugs, created the first ceramic pitcher shown here.  It was part of a series the company produced in limited numbers for the Pick-Kwik Wines and Spirits, Ltd. of Derby, England, advertising its Scotch whiskey.   Doulton produced a bespectacled and pudgy Mr. Pickwick, looking slightly woozy.  His hat described the lip of a pitcher and the handle was a bottle marked simply “whiskey.”  This was an edition of 2,000.

Plck-Kwik Wines and Spirits also produced a line of mini-jugs, each containing several swallows of its liquor, probably to be given away to favored customers.   The handle side of each featured a standing figure of Pickwick, raising his hat in greeting and a bottle of the whiskey with the same image as the label.   The series features scenes from a number of Dickens novels in well-executed under-glaze transfer printed images.   Several, like the two below, feature well-known scenes from The Pickwick Papers.

The mini-jug at left below captures a scene in which Mr. Pickwick, standing at far right, is addressing the club all of whom have been drinking the wine glasses on the table.  Typically, as Dickens told it, the Old Gentleman’s discourse would have shown the effects of the amount of drink consumed before he began.  The jug at right is the first meeting of Mr. Pickwick, again far right, with another famous Dickens character, Sam Weller, at left.  Weller, a young man with an array of talents, will become Pickwick’s “man,” helping him out of several scrapes. 
The next Pickwick jug carried a full fifth of what the labels calls “Finest Old Blended Pickwick Rare Scotch Whisky.”  Although, as on the mini-jugs, Pickwick’s figure appears on the rear, he has been pre-empted on the front by Santa Claus.  This ceramic jug, the product of Buchan Pottery of Portobello, Scotland, was made for the 1982 holiday market in the U.S.  All Scotch whiskey is a blend but in this country blends must be identified as such.  In Scotland what Americans call “straight” whiskey are known as “single malts.”

U.S. distillers also saw a benefit from using the Pickwick image.  The Kentucky bourbon,  Jim Beam, commissioned Doulton Pottery to undertake its own version of the Dickens character.  This was a “two-headed” version with the back side being the visage of a winking Sam Weller.  The handle was a Jim Beam bottle rendered in yellow.  Compared with the earlier Doulton jug, this Pickwick has a definite sly look in his eyes and a jaunty red bow tie.  The backside also carries the motto:  “The world’s best bourbon.”  Beam also commissioned a second version of Pickwick, this one largely in white porcelain.  Here the Old Gentleman seems contemplative, perhaps thinking about the inscription at the bottom:  “Jim Beam Sells Whiskey.”
Another American distiller and whiskey wholesaler that picked up on the Pickwick story was George Benz, a German immigrant to Minneapolis whose liquor “empire” extended south to Kentucky and east to Baltimore.  His flagship brand was “Pickwick Rye,”   

Benz advertised the product as a quality whiskey — “Its well worth going after.”  To illustrate the point, his ad shows a portly Mr. Pickwick himself, aided by two friends, being boosted to a point where he can grab a bottle — one with his picture on it.  Always generous with his giveaways, Benz provided saloons and restaurants carrying his whiskey with attractive “back-of-the-bar” bottles bearing the Pickwick name.
Although Dickens’ character would not have been familiar with American bourbon, he would have recognized “the tang of good old ale.”  That is why Rudolf F. Haffenreffer, described as a Rhode Island industrialist and Massachusetts brewer, called two of his beer brands “Pickwick Pale” and “Pickwick Stout.”  A late 1930s ad shows a fashionable couple arriving in a roadster at “ye tavern” serving those brews.  Haffenreffer, who later became president of Narragansett Brewery, did not include a picture  of the Old Gentleman on his bottles.
The final ad appears to be a rival American-made Pickwick Ale, as advertised on a theater program.  It claimed to be “…always served on draught, never in bottles.”  In this case, the advertiser presented us with a picture of Pickwick enjoying a stein of ale while sitting jauntily on a large wooden settee.  This Pickwickian image marks a fitting conclusion to a brief look at a fictional character whose drinking habits have made him an iconic figure for alcoholic libations ever since.

Note:   *My post on W.C. Fields can be found on this blog for March 2015.























Thursday, July 30, 2015

Uncle Sam and Cigars: Puffing on Patriotism

      
Sex sells, but so does patriotism.  Before the U.S. Surgeon General warned us all about the dangers of smoking, cigar manufacturers had recognized that symbols of patriotism could be a powerful influence on the stogie aficionados of America.  Uncle Sam, who regularly was showing up on liquor and beer advertising, was a natural icon for displaying on the cigar box lids and advertising.

The lid of a National cigar box above is particularly intriguing.  The bearded figure shown in the top hat, blue jacket and red striped trousers is a bit young for Uncle Sam and may be his predecessor, a character called “Brother Jonathan” that once epitomized the U.S.  Sitting jauntily on a hogshead of tobacco he is surrounded by two female symbols of “liberty.”  Just the name of the brand —National — bespeaks a patriotic appeal.  The cigars were the product of the Chas. Fellman Co. of Worcester, Massachusetts.
The Spanish American War was a time of considerable patriotic fervor in the country.  It also marked an era of expansionism.  The Boener Bros. of Lawrence, Kansas, offered Americans a new cigar, possibly a more bulbous version.  By calling it “My New Shape” and featuring an obese Uncle Sam it brought attention to the quick defeat of the Spanish and the potential for adding Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines to an American empire.   In the end, of course, only Puerto Rico and the Philippines (for a time) were kept.
The Spanish-American War also set the patriotic theme of “Victorias” Cigar — possibly a takeoff of “Victorious.” This was a product of the G. B. Sprague Cigar Company of Columbus, Ohio, probably manufactured around 1899.  It featured Sam with portraits of two Navy admirals designated, “Our Leaders.”  The portrait at left is Admiral George Dewey, the hero of Manila Bay for sinking the Spanish fleet at its anchorage there.  At right is William Thomson Sampson known for his victory in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba.
“Our Uncle” Cigars strike a patriotic pose, this time showing Uncle Sam among two symbols of Washington, D.C., the U.S. Capitol building and the Washington Monument.  More interesting is the backdrop inside the bower behind the old gentleman.  It displays palm trees, mountains and what appears to be a factory in a Latin American Country.  This may be Cuba with the inference of where Our Uncle gets his tobacco.
The next cigar box lid leaves nothing to the imagination.  It shows Uncle Sam enjoying a “Yankee Smoke” cigar posed in front of a map of Cuba.  Again the name of the stogie and Uncle Sam smoking it in triumph, rampant on a map of a country recently wrested from Spanish control, bespeaks the strong tide of expansionism that swept the country during and after the Spanish-American conflict.

The most elegant portrait of the old gentleman came from a cigar manufacturer in Richmond, Virginia.  He was a German immigrant named Peter Whitlock who served with the Confederate Army in the Quartermaster Corps making uniforms.  After the war he began with a small cigar rolling shop and with success by 1885 was employing 70 rollers and 30 support people.   In 1886 Whitlock completed construction of the giant “P. Whitlock Cheroot and Cigar Factory” and introduced the smokes that Uncle Sam recommended.   They were called “Old Virginia Cheroots, sold three for five cents, and reportedly were a national favorite for more than a half century.  The picture of Uncle Sam was one of five large posters offered as premiums by the company.

Perhaps the ultimate in the kidnapping of the Uncle Sam image by the cigar trade was a line of the product that called itself “Uncle Sam Cigars.”   It was fully in the patriotism mode, with the American bald eagle and national shield flanking the stogie smoking Sam.  I read an imperial expansion theme in it as the figure drops his cigars over a cloud-shrouded globe.  A second lid, shown below, advertising the same brand sounds the same theme.  Uncle Sam is looking toward a navy ship, speeding fast and two guns aimed forward.  Perhaps this Sam “needs no introduction” because military power is opening foreign markets for U.S. manufactures like cigars.  

The figure in front of a flowing American flag is advertising “Uncle Sam’s Cigar,” likely a competitor to the cigar above.  This stogie was sold with the slogan “The Nation’s Choice.”  The motto must have had a signal amount of cachet; it was used, with variations on the wording, by a number of cigar manufacturers.  Against the backdrop of two patriotic props, the use of the word “nation” was not accidental.  As other illustrations here, it signaled an energetic patriotism as a marketing ploy.   

With the introduction of Uncle Sam as the most pervasive symbol of America, appearing frequently in newspapers and magazines both at home and abroad, perhaps it was inevitable that the image would be purloined for commercial purposes.   Although large parts of the American population considered smoking and drinking alcohol immoral, the general public apparently did not sense that such commercial uses would inappropriate or that some products tarnished the image of Uncle Sam.
“Uncle Sam’s Delight” featured the American icon in a highly unusual pose, lying on his back under a tree with an American eagle perched on one knee.  He is smoking a cigar longer than his midriff, a large ash on the end.  This image was meant to convey that Uncle Sam’s Delight cigars were unusually long — some seven inches.  They came in an oversized box of 50 made by the Old Well Cigar Company of Norwalk, Connecticut.  This manufacturer had been founded in 1880 by Christian Swartz, a German immigrant, Union solder, tobacco shop owner, and later Mayor of Norwalk.
Another cigar co-opting the name was “Uncle Sam’s Hot Shots” that showed the stogie rather than Sam but added in the usual patriotic symbols of the American flag and shield.  When issued about 1903 it was the product of the American Stogie Company of Allegheny, Pennsylvania.  A popular brand, it seems later to have been taken over by the P. Lorillard Company of New York.

The era of identifying Uncle Sam with cigars seemingly arose after the Civil War and, judging from the examples here, hit full stride during and after the Spanish-American war.  As the 20th Century wore on, however, the use of the figure to sell tobacco products diminish sharply and by the onset of World War One seems largely to have disappeared.  Today, of course, using Uncle Sam to promote tobacco products would be almost unthinkable.  





















Saturday, July 18, 2015

Vintage Vermifuge: A Wormy Idea

 When my mother was a little girl growing up on an Ohio farm, the lore among her playmates was that if you thought you had a tapeworm the remedy was to swallow one watermelon seed a day for 12 days and on the 12th day the tapeworm would be expelled.   My mother several times ate a watermelon seed for 11 days but could never bring herself to swallow the 12th, fearing what might emerge.  For others a “vermifuge” was the answer.
Rural children, especially those in the South, who were going barefoot or eating bad meat,  were plagued with intestinal parasites.  It is estimated that after the Civil War,  half of Southern children had hookworm.   Against this plague, a wide array of remedies, called “vermifuges” were produced by patent medicine firms.  Dozens of those products aimed at expelling worms, many containing in excess of 10% alcohol, were advertised widely and bought by anxious parents.

One of the earliest peddlers was B. L. Fahnestock of Pittsburgh.  Just when this gentleman, shown on a trade card, began his quack medicine enterprise is not clear but his was among the drug houses listed in Pittsburgh in 1829.  By the time this ad for his vermifuge was issued he had been in business almost 30 years.   One worm-fighting concoction bearing the Fahnestock name had the such ingredients as tincture of myrrh, oils of wormwood and anise, croton oil (a laxative), and turpentine.  
Another early vermifuge was from the E & S Frey Company of Baltimore.  Beginning about the same time as Fahnestock, its ads called upon parents to watch for symptoms in their children.  Those included gritting of teeth, nose picking, and upset stomach.  “Rid your child’s body of these ruinous parasites,” it implored.    If its trade cards are to be believed E & S Frey did business for more than half a century.

The verisimilitude of the vermifuge pitches apparently was believed to be enhanced if they came from a “doctor.”  One of the most inventive in his advertising approach was “Dr. D. Jayne.”  Born David Jayne in Philadelphia about 1798, the this nostrum peddler spent most of his life in Philadelphia concocting cures. 

Jayne was responsible for one of the most intriguing ads for a worm-killer to be circulated.  It shows a young woman in Middle Eastern dress with a blonde baby who gazes directly out at the viewer.  Could this be a depiction of the Madonna and Child?  But no.  Look closer, the baby is in a wicker basket.  This is the child Moses and his mother after he has been found in the bulrushes of the Nile River by the Pharaoh’s daughter, as per the Biblical story.  Shown left, the discovery scene was caught on a trade card issued by the Jayne firm.  
What Dr. Jayne put into this elixir is not clear, but he recommended it as a “family remedy” for both adults and children.   “It will remove dyspepsia and restore tone to the Stomach and is a certain destroyer of Worms.”  Other fraudulent advertising warned about the horrors of worms in a child, noting that they produce “…such irritation and debility as will surely break down the constitution, if the cause is not removed may bring on St. Vitas Dance or  Convulsions and render its after life a burden.”  To save your child, Dr. Jayne’s was the answer.

Dr. H. F. Peery was another huckster who featured a vermifuge.  Shown here is one of his medicine bottles.  He called his potion “Dead Shot,” and claimed that it was “…capable, from the promptitude of its action, of clearing the system in a few hours of every worm.”   Dr. Richard Cannon, the guru of patent medicines, has speculated that this approach appealed to consumers who sought quick action.  Whether it worked was another matter.
The label of Dr. C.M. McLane’s “Celebrated American Worm Specific or Vermifuge”  from a Pittsburgh drug firm named Fleming Bros. raises economic questions.  It advertised a one-half ounce bottle for 25 cents.  While that might not sound like much, at the time the average worker made only about $1.00 a day.  This would be about a quarter of a day’s pay for a very small amount of the remedy but nonetheless a financial sacrifice for some poor families.
In order to make the purchase seem worthwhile, Dr. McLane and other resorted to attractive trade cards with cautionary tales on the back.  The one shown here has a testimonial from a “John Piper” who cheerfully notes that after giving Dr. McLanes’s Vermifuge to his children “Charley passed forty-five and Johnny about sixty worms.” 

To complete this lineup of worm-killers is a bottle from the Van Vleet-Mansfield Drug Company of Memphis that also sold an extensive line of liquors.  It might have held the product that the firm called “Sweet’s Honey Vermifuge,” advertising it as a “perfectly harmless” preparation for children. Under the 1906 Food and Drug Act, however, Van Vleet-Mansfield were convicted of a patent medicine fraud in 1912. 

Although the name gave the impression that there was honey in the product, none could be found by U.S. Bureau of Chemistry.  Instead the ingredients were alcohol, senna (herb laxative), Epson’s salts, table salt, sugar, coloring and santonin (a poison).   As reported by the American Medical Association:  “The stuff was misbranded because of false and misleading statements regarding the quantity of alcohol, it contained no honey, and any preparation containing santonin is not “perfectly harmless” to children. “  Van Vleet-Mansfield pled guilty and was fined $10, a mere slap on the wrist.

In summary, it appears that my farm girl mother and her companions were wise to choose the watermelon seed worm cure.  It likely was just as effective as many of the vermifuges being sold, definitely safer, and certainly a lot cheaper — even if my mother could never swallow that twelfth seed.

















Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Confederate Flag and “The Splendid Valor”

            

Although for some time I have been planning a post on the souvenirs of Southern Civil War veterans,  the current controversy over the display of the Confederate battle flag has impelled me to bring an article forward now.  I spent more than two years transcribing into a computer the hand-written diary of a Confederate infantryman who recorded his thoughts every day for the five years of the war, an activity that has given me a new appreciation of that era in our national history.

Of particular interest to me — and illustrated here — are the artifacts that have been left to posterity by the Confederate veterans organizations from their multiple reunions after the war.   An earlier post here [January 2014] provided images of souvenirs issued by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Northern Civil War veterans organization.

Unlike the GAR, a national organization formed almost immediately after the conflict, the Southern veterans initially grouped on a fractionalized basis, locally or on a state level.  For years there was no single national organization representing their interests.   This is understandable, given the low morale that must have followed soldiers home after Appomattox and the state-centered nature of the Confederacy.  One of the earliest Southern veteran’s organization, for example, was the Oglethorpe Light Infantry Association in Savannah, Georgia, formed in 1865.  The 1870s and 1880s saw a proliferation of local units throughout the South.
It was not until June 1889, twenty-four years from the end of hostilities, that efforts succeeded to create an all-Dixie organization.   Founded in New Orleans, the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) sought to unify the many separate veterans’ groups scattered across the former Confederate states into one larger regional body.  It succeeded and grew rapidly throughout the 1890s culminating in its 1898 reunion when 1,555 local “encampments” were recorded at its 1898 reunion.  Eventually 160,000 former Confederate soldiers were organized into 1,885 individual camps.

The UCV, devoted to social, charitable and memorial functions, divided itself into two groups based on the division of the Confederate forces into the Army of Virginia and the Army of Tennessee.  Shown above is a souvenir ribbon from a reunion of the latter’s  Louisiana Division held in New Orleans in April of 1895.  Note that it carries prominently the Confederate battle flag, as do other other souvenir items shown here.  The UCV national hymn, “God Save the South!”  similarly featured the battle flag on its cover.
Not all UCV souvenir items, however, were flag oriented.  Shown below are a ceramic jug from the 15th annual reunion of the UCV in June 1905 and a watch fob from a 1910 reunion in Virginia.  By that year, the membership was dwindling as the veterans aged and died.  The last UCV reunion, its 60th, was in 1950 when only one member, the 98-year-old leader, could attend.  A U.S. postage stamp was issued the next year to commemorate the organization.  Note that the stamp has no flag, just an hourglass indicating the passage of time.
While the Confederate flag was conspicuous in much the UCV did, it is instructive to repeat a statement that appeared in the program for its 1907 reunion, held in Richmond, Virginia:  “Here where once sat its Confederate Congress, stands side by side the Stars and Bars of the “Lost Cause” with the Stars and Stripes, which no section has done more to upbuild and uphold than the South.   Everywhere is seen the American flag side by side with the Confederate, and it is this spirit which prevails among the Veterans and which will pervade the reunion.”  Note the souvenir from a 1897 UCV reunion that displays both flags.

Another signal event was the 1913 Gettysburg Reunion, a June-July gathering of 53,407 veterans.  All honorably discharged veterans of both North and South were invited and many responded from both sides.  Despite concerns that there might be conflict between Blue and Gray, a peaceful reunion was reported to have been “marked by events of Union-Confederate camaraderie.”  President Woodrow Wilson gave the July 4 reunion address that summarized the spirit:  “We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten — except that we shall not forget the splendid valor.”
Fast forward to today.  In the present a young man, who in photos wrapped himself in the Confederate flag, murdered nine people in a Charleston church.  Why has the amity shown at the Gettysburg Reunion gone so awry?  The answer lies in the groups that have made it their business to put the Confederate flag in public places, on license plates and in other venues.  As a sign of what?  The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) says it is to elicit Southern pride.  The Southern Poverty Law Center on its website, however, provides a long list of SCV officers at both national and state levels who are, or recently have been, members of what it lists as “hate groups.”  Unfortunately, the haters seem to have captured the flag and made it a symbol of resistance to equal rights.
The soldier mentioned in the first paragraph here was from the 17th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Shown right, its battle flag was dominated by the traditional  “Stars and Bars.”  That flag currently resides in a museum in Alexandria Virginia, the city from whence came many of its men.  That is a good and fitting place for the flag — not flying above city hall or the state capitol, nor displayed on license plates, or featured in other contexts that suggest racial bias.  All memorabilia and souvenirs of the Civil War deserve to be in a location like the 17th Virginia battle flag:  A museum.  That is where they can do the most to inspire respectful memory of those who fought and recognition of their “splendid valor.”

Note:  It is just happenstance that this article is being posted on July 4, Independence Day, 102 years after the Gettysburg Reunion that brought together combatants from both the Union and Confederacy military in apparent harmony.