For Stan Wills, a desire to share the history of America with other people led to ownership of the Spokane Flag Museum – the only museum of its kind on the West Coast that houses a collection of more than 125 replica flags.
The museum – sponsored by the nonprofit group Sons of the American Revolution and the Fairmount Memorial Association – contains variations of the American flag as well as state, country and military flags.
“The main purpose of the museum is to educate people about history of the American flag,” Wills said. “There’s so many things people don’t know about the flag.”
Wills said his passion for educating people about the American flag began at a recruiting booth for the Sons of the American Revolution, which was set up at the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show. He offered prizes to kids who could correctly answer questions about the flag.
“When they came by, they wouldn’t know the answer,” he said. “They would turn around and ask their parents the answer and they didn’t know either.”
Wills, a history buff and Navy veteran, began speaking at schools and churches about the American flag.
He took over operation of the flag museum in 2014 from founder and historian Chester Caskey, who ran the museum until it was relocated from Rock Chapel at Fairmount Memorial Cemetery to 1402 S. Pines Road in Spokane Valley.
The Fairmount Memorial Association donated the use of Rock Chapel for several events, such as Revolutionary War displays. That prompted Caskey to open the flag museum in 2009.
“Through our historical events such as the Revolutionary War displays, it got to where we had two dozen historic flags we had purchased and we just decided to establish a flag museum,” Caskey said. “It was a tourist attraction. It was a nice thing to see. People really appreciated it.”
The museum is arranged to tell the history of the U.S. through displays, beginning with the Flag of Spain signifying the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 followed by variations of the Union Flag and the Betsy Ross Flag containing 13 stars.
The museum is funded through donations, grants and flag sales. Wills uses monetary donations to purchase more flags for the collection at Uncle Sam’s Flag and Gift in Spokane Valley.
Wills said his favorites from the museum collection are a military flag from the Culpepper Minutemen – a militia group formed in 1775 – as well as the Flag of Honor containing the names of people who died on Sept. 11.
Wills – in addition to sharing information with visitors about the flag code and how to properly fly a flag – also conducts flag retirement ceremonies for people and groups using wood from Arlington Cemetery and Mt. Vernon, Virginia – which is George Washington’s birthplace.
Caskey said flags are a great teaching aid for children and adults.
“You can teach an American history course just through flags. It’s fun,” he said. “There’s just something about flags we love. Everybody has flags for different holidays. There’s something about flags that excites people.”
Wills said he hopes to expand the museum by potentially partnering with Lance Johnson of Uncle Sam’s Flag and Gift to provide a one-stop shop for visitors to tour, take classes and buy a flag.
“I would love to have a larger building with a classroom to teach a class on flags,” he said.
The museum is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment.
“We’re here and we love talking about the American flag,” Wills said.