EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the current Corn Palace building, which opened in 1921.
There was some controversy a few years ago when the Corn Palace removed the prominent U.S. flag from the center dome following the building’s renovations.
But go back in Corn Palace history and it turns out that was nothing in comparison to 1922 and the Great Drape Controversy.
It was Corn Palace Festival time in September 1922 when the Salt Lake City firm in charge of street decorations for the show, and C.A. Nasner had the duty of decorating the Palace area and Main Street. To do so, he went with the United States flag, with the flag being draped throughout downtown Mitchell.
That didn’t suffice for the local American Legion auxiliary, which protested how the flag was draped and decorated. One of the main priorities of the organization has always been Americanism, and the group still has a focus on sharing flag history and etiquette with the public.
Currently, the U.S. Flag Code is seems clear about drapery with the flag itself. It says the flag “should never be used for wearing apparel, bedding or drapery” and should never be “festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds but always allowed to fall free.”
But the code does allow for blue, white and red bunting and for draping on the front of a platform and for decoration. Archive stories about the incident don’t expressly delineate how Nasner was using the flag, and how he was using bunting.
The Nasner said that the rules allowed him to drape the flag, and he cited that he had been all around the country, including working with service members and they had assured him he was not showing disrespect to the flag rules.
“Flags may be draped, but both the stars and stripes should be allowed to show as they mean something,” he said.
Nasner also tried to pull rank. He noted that his firm had done decorating for the 1921 National Legion Convention in Kansas City, which had thousands of military veterans in the city.
“The military men who will be in Mitchell have seen the flag draped scores of times at patriotic events,” he said.
Nasner was in defense mode — the Mitchell Evening Republican headline was “Decorator here defends use of draped emblem” — but history isn’t clear about how this tiff was rectified.
The Corn Palace has a long history of patriotic and Americanism efforts in its 100-year history at 604 N. Main St., which this newspaper hopes to cover more in this feature later in the year. But in the early years of the current building, one of those initial efforts created debate and headlines.
This story was published with the research assistance of the Carnegie Resource Center in Mitchell, located at 119 W. Third Ave.