The J.L. Hudson Department Store

The J.L. Hudson’s giant flag draped on the downtown Detroit department store, 1934


J.L. Hudson Department Store
Courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Betsy Ross would have to be cloned many times over to sew this, the world’s largest flag, which was draped across the Woodward faćade of the J.L. Hudson department store every June on Flag Day, as well as on other patriotic holidays.

It was first unfurled on Armistice Day, 1923, and even made an appearance at the 1939 World’s Fair. The flag was retired in 1949; the following year, it took 55 men to hang the new one. In 1960, to mark the admission of Alaska and Hawaii to statehood a year earlier, six seamstresses’ services were required to add the two stars, which measured 6 feet high. (The stripes were 8 feet wide.) A mile of rope held the flag in place. The giant flag was last displayed in 1976, to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial. It was then donated to the Smithsonian Institution. — George Bulanda