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The Whiskey Rebellion: Carrying the flag of a militiaman

December 1, 2015

Filed under Collections, Community and Domestic Life, Exhibits, Pennsylvania Icons, Pennsylvania Treasures

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The flag of a militiaman at the heart of the Whiskey Rebellion

This blue-and-white-striped silk flag belonged to William Huckel, an upholsterer by trade who served with several militia units during the American Revolution.

This week’s Pennsylvania Treasure is a flag carried by a militiaman during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. Selected by CAP curator Jennifer Gleim, this flag is featured in Pennsylvania Icons, a new exhibit at The State Museum.

The Whiskey Rebellion protested taxes on distilled spirits levied by the federal government in 1791. Three years later, some of those who resisted the tariffs turned to violence, targeting tax collectors in western Pennsylvania. In response, President George Washington dispatched peace commissioners to the region while, at the same time, assembling a force of militiamen from Pennsylvania and surrounding states whose job it would be to suppress the rebellion.

At the center of this blue-and-white striped silk flag is the handwritten message, “This quilt was used by Wm. Huckel in the Western Expedition 1794.” It’s not clear why this flag is referred to as a quilt.

An Englishman who arrived in Philadelphia in 1775, William Huckel was an upholsterer by trade who served with several militia units during the American Revolution. In 1794 he earned the rank of captain, serving as a paymaster in the 1st Regiment of the Philadelphia Brigade under Col. Francis Gurney. That same year, Huckel traveled with Gurney to western Pennsylvania as part of the expedition to quell the Whiskey Rebellion.

Huckel lived in Philadelphia for the remainder of his life. He died in 1834.


About Pennsylvania Icons:
Featuring a diverse array of artifacts from the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic sites and museums, Pennsylvania Icons tells the story of our commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation. The exhibit features historic artifacts ranging from a 1654 map of the Philadelphia region to pieces of the Walnut Street bridge in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Icons opens to the public on Sunday, November 8, 2015.


About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.