'Made in America': Annin Co. Is the Oldest, Largest Flagmaker in the World

Its flags have been flown during Civil War, World Wars and even on the moon.

April 18, 2011, 5:14 AM

April 18, 2011 — -- They were the first things we noticed two months ago when we started this whole "Made in America" journey.

As we turned down Snow White Drive in Dallas, the flags were everywhere. And as we drove past the front yards, we wondered where those flags were made.

Without labels it was impossible to know the answer.

At the time, there was even a tweet from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" that got our attention. They sent out the image of a giant shipping box with the American flag stamped on it. Beneath the image on the box, it read "Made In China."

We've received so many emails and tweets from viewers. One of those emails came from Steve in Clearwater, Fla., who wrote us: "Annin is the oldest and largest flagmaker in the world. Their U.S. flags are made in this country. Perhaps you could highlight Annin."

And so we did.

Annin Flagmakers started in New York City and now runs its largest factory in Coshocton, Ohio, population 11,000. Annin makes 50,000 flags a day -- more than 5,500 flags an hour, 93 U.S. flags a minute. They have plants in New Jersey, Virginia and Ohio.

As we approached the factory, driving down a road lined with farm fields, we knew we were getting close. The flags were everywhere, hanging from mailboxes and homes. Even the water tanks in the middle of the fields are painted red, white and blue.

But this time, something was different. There were labels on them that made it clear: These flags were made in America. As we crossed our last bridge, on a gray day, we discovered an enormous bright spot in this town. A factory gleaming with red, white and blue.

"Everything that goes into these flags is made in America?" we asked. "Made by Americans, for Americans, to fly by Americans," was the response.

The nylon, the dye and the thread are all made in America.

Annin's flags were flown during the Civil War, World War I and II, at Iwo Jima and even during that moment on the moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

After Sept. 11, an Annin flag was raised at ground zero. There was a rush on U.S. flags and Annin couldn't keep up. Some major U.S. retailers then turned to China to make the flags but Americans wouldn't buy them.

An Annin executive says one major retailer even sent 10 million China-made flags back to Annin in Ohio, asking what to do with them.

"The imported flags came back and came back in big amounts and we had to destroy them," said plant general manager Rick Merrell.

They were replaced with U.S. flags made at Annin. It's a rare American edge in a town where so many jobs have vanished. And behind so many Annin sewing stations is a story.

Cindy Price worked for 18 years at a glove factory across town. When it shut down -- Price says the company moved its manufacturing to Sri Lanka -- she landed a job at Annin. In the last six months, Annin has added 120 jobs. It's their busy season. The flagmaker says it will make 20 percent more flags this year than it did last year.

The company points to two wars and a patriotic hunger in this country for a better economy.

Julie Darr, a mother and grandmother, is a floor lead, looking for imperfections in the flags -- an extra thread, a loose hem. Her husband is a trucker who is often hired to deliver Annin's flags.

Many of the workers told us they'd seen our "Made in America" reports in March. They had not forgotten the Texas home where the vast majority of furnishings were made overseas. When we removed everything not made in America, the house was nearly empty.

"It blew me away," said plant manager Merrell. "When you showed the vase and the flowers, my wife and I about died when we saw it."

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