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Follow the Journey of America's Oldest Colonial Militia Flag in 'A Stitch in Time'

In hopes of preserving their collection of 19th-century military flags from a Grand Army of the Republic Post, the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, reached out to the Varnum Continentals in East Greenwich for their expertise. Little did they know that a priceless piece of history would be amongst the batch.  

While a majority of the flags had faded, some even crumbled, it was an intact piece of golden silk that caught the eye of expert textile conservator Maria Vasquez and curator Patrick Donovan.   

In remarkable condition for its age, the long-forgotten colonial “Byfield Flag” underwent delicate conservation while historians pieced together the timeline of the flag’s benefactor, Colonel Nathaniel Byfield – a commanding officer of the Bristol County Militia and one of the original founders of the Town of Bristol.  

With his flag dating back to the 1690s, the “Byfield Flag” may now be the oldest Colonial American flag in existence.   

Capturing the flag’s intricate conservation treatment in a half-hour documentary, WSBE Rhode Island PBS presents A Stitch in Time, a Rhode Island PBS Original.   

A Stitch in Time premieres Monday, May 30 at 7:30 p.m., with an encore at 10: 30 p.m.

WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits high-definition (HD) programming over the air on digital 36.1; Cox 08 / 1008HD, Verizon FiOS 08 / 508HD, and Full Channel 08; Comcast 819HD and Verizon FiOS 18 / 518HD; DirecTV 36, Dish Network 36. Live stream the full schedule within the broadcast viewing area at