Presidential Debate, Washington University, 2004


Washington University in St. Louis, MO

Click for a Slideshow of the Exhibited Flags

The Presidential Debate The Flag & America's Presidential Campaigns. Click on the page below to view the full brochure.

ST. LOUIS, October 8, 2004: Two Washington University graduates have installed ten rare and historically important American flags in the media center for the debates at Washington University in St. Louis. With different star and stripe patterns, methods of manufacture, and uses, the flags show how the U.S. grew and developed throughout the 19th century. Revealing not just how the flag changed over time, but also how political campaigns evolved, the flags provide an enlightening historical context in which to view the debates.

Included in this collection is an extremely rare and original 13-star flag from the early 19th century with blue stars on a white star field. This unusual and visually striking flag was later modified for the 1880 presidential campaign when Democrats Winfield S. Hancock and William English placed their names prominently on the flag. Also on display is a large flag associated with Abraham Lincoln's funeral. The flag flew over the Albany railroad station in New York when Lincoln's body arrived to be placed in the State Capitol rotunda on April 25, 1865.

The flags are part of the much larger collection of Washington University alumni, Louise Veninga (MA 72) and Ben Zaricor (LA 72), founders of Good Earth Teas of Santa Cruz, CA. The Presidential Debate display was made possible through the efforts of Washington University, Good Earth Teas, and The Flag Center, a national, nonprofit educational organization.


C-SPAN Coverage of the 2004 Presidential Debate Media Center in Washington University in St. Louis.

Click on the page below to view the exhibition flag poster.

Washington University in St. Louis, October 8, 2004

Student Life: Past SU head displays flag collection in AC
"Spin Alley" showcases 16 of alum's antique flags

For Washington University alumnus Ben Zaricor, one of the walls running through the Athletic Complex has a particularity unique meaning. On one side, where "Spin Alley" is currently located, the University is displaying 16 antique flags from Zaricor's collection of 2,300 flags.

The other side of that same wall is the former location of the University's ROTC building. Thirty years ago, the University suspended Zaricor for protesting against the ROTC.

Both a flag enthusiast and former Vietnam War protestor, Zaricor has been involved with politics at the University both today and in years past.

Flags as Symbols

Zaricor first became interested in collecting flags when he witnessed a young man being beaten up for wearing a stars-and-stripes vest.

"I was in a pizza parlor that used to be on the corner of Skinker and Millbrook," said Zaricor. "I was in the restaurant with Irving Lewis Horowitz, then a professor, and we saw a kid get taken outside and beaten up because he had an American flag vest on. He was in a band and that was part of his get-up. One of the ladies who worked there was offended and called her boyfriend. He came over and took the guy outside and beat him up."

This strong reaction to the use of the American flag got Zaricor thinking about the power that flags hold as symbols and unifying agents.

"Flags symbolize a concept or an idea," said Zaricor. "They can talk to you."

Zaricor started with a small collection, which he hung in his apartment near campus. His collection continued to grow as he traveled the world and amassed flags from many nations.

Today, the collection has over 2,300 pieces, and Zaricor has established the Flag Foundation, which uses his collection as an education resource.

The flag display in Spin Alley, comprising 16 antique American flags, came about through a simple discussion of Zaricor's hobby.

"The idea of displaying the flags at the debate started with a conversation with former chancellor Bill Danforth," said Zaricor. "I told him I had just collected a very famous flag, what I thought to be one of the oldest 13-star flags in the country...From that idea, the bigger exhibit developed."

Henry Berger, associate professor of history at the University, also contributed to the idea.

The flags, which will not be displayed at any other presidential debate, are under the care of a professional curator during their time at the University.

A protesting past

Before Zaricor became a flag enthusiast, he was an extremely involved undergraduate student. He served as Student Union President from 1969-1970 and after finishing his term became involved with the protests against the ROTC and the Vietnam War.

"This was the background in which we were going to school," said Zaricor. "These flags on exhibit in Spin Alley are right on the other side of the wall [from] where the ROTC building was. We were having guerilla theatre. I was part of that-my participation was strictly nonviolent. Others got more violent."

Zaricor participated in many nonviolent aspects of the protest, including teach-ins in Busch 100 and marches from the Brookings Quad to the ROTC building. When he participated in a sit-in that blocked the ROTC parade, he was suspended from the University.

"The University was unique," said Zaricor. "It was a very progressive school in the Midwest in a conservative community. The Board of Trustees represented the military industrial complex-literally. [We had] McDonnell and Mallinckrodt. A lot of these guys knew Hoover and were very upset because the students were having demonstrations."

While protests still occur today, Zaricor sees a different mentality on campus than the one he knew thirty years ago.

"What's changed in America today is the mindset," he said. "We saw this in the '80s and '90s. Students are being taught to cooperate and to be nice. In the '60s and '70s the community was much more open-there was a lot of diversity and there was no feeling that parts of the University did not belong to the students. Everyone knew how to behave. When there were demonstrations, though, that was something else. Now you have a mentality that you have to stay in place."

Washington University in St. Louis News & Information Historic American flags displayed at Presidential Debate

Student Life, Washington University in St. Louis Past SU head displays flag collection in AC

Flag Exhibit Labels. Click on the page below to view all the exhibited flag labels.