The University Record, January 14, 2002

Martha Cook residents find flag

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

(Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)
The design of the U.S. flag has changed 26 times since the first official flag was approved by the Continental Congress June 14, 1777. From the original 13 stars representing the original colonies, the white stars on the blue background grew to 48 in 1912 and, finally, to 50 in 1960.

The residents of Martha Cook recently found a 12-foot-10-inch by seven-foot-2-inch flag of muslin with 48 stars in a storage room of the building. While it was not unusual at that time to construct a flag of muslin, the 48-star version flown in the years 1912–1959 remains the longest used version spanning the presidencies from William Howard Taft to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The addition of New Mexico and Arizona as states was responsible for the 47th and 48th stars. In 1959 Alaska was added as a state and in 1960 Hawaii.

The women of Martha Cook were doubtful that the soiled flag could withstand cleaning. But a regular commercial cleaning process gave the banner a new lease on life. The flag is now hung in the south end of the great hall on the first floor of Martha Cook

Eighty-six years ago the Martha Cook Building opened its doors for the first time and was described as the most beautiful college dormitory in the United States. Since the building has been home to several thousand women and was designated a historic site by the State of Michigan in 1990.

William Cook hoped the residence, named for his mother, would provide an atmosphere of beauty and harmonious living that would nurture “the charm and grace and principles of cultured American womanhood.” While Cook was raised on these principles and hoped to nurture them, he also was a man of vision and foresaw the future of women’s education. The Martha Cook Building was one of the first residence halls for women at the University. Prior to 1915 women were expected to find their own housing off campus.

Beneath the building’s dining hall of 15th century design, a stone mantled fireplace bears a motto chosen by Cook, “Home, the Nation’s Safety.” With current national and international conditions, it is hard to overlook the irony of this motto and the establishment of the national Office of Homeland Security.