signing their lives away

Happy Flag Day! Meet the Flag Guy!

June 14th is Flag Day in the United States, the day Americans celebrate the day in 1777 when Congress adopted the stars and stripes as the nation’s official flag. Educators use to day to teach kids (and adults) about flag history, etiquette, and display.

Because of kind of books we write, my wife and I have met a lot of people over the years who are immersed in some facet of U.S. history. Al Cavalari is the proprietor of The Flag Guys, a company in upstate New York that makes and sells a vast quantity of flags. Today I’m sharing 2010 interview with him.

Thanks for visiting, Al. Can you tell us how and why you became a vendor of American flags?

Funny you should ask. I bet most people can not name the exact day, time and place they got into their line of work. I can. It was January 25, 1981 on Rt 207 in New Windsor, NY. That is the day that 52 Americans arrived on American soil for the first time after 444 days in Iranian captivity. Little old New Windsor, NY, was pleased and honored to have the bragging rights of being the first town in the US of A to welcome home these fellow citizens who had been taken hostage when our embassy was taken over.

I happened to be home for two weeks on a visit from Germany, where I had lived for four years after college. I worked there as a waiter, construction worker, and a nurse's aid. My father is a lawyer and after the Bicentennial in 1976 he thought it would be fun to be a flag dealer. So he became one for fun and kept a small supply of flags that he sold out of his law office. The hostages were to land at Stewart Air Base due to its proximity to West Point, where they would stay for some R and R. The President lands here also when he visits West Point.

New Windsor, NY, 1981.

New Windsor, NY, 1981.

As you can see from the photo, it was a great day for flag waving. I stood out on the street and sold stick flags. That was my start. After I returned to the US for good a couple years later, I continued to dabble in flag sales as a way to make side money. The more I worked at it, the more business I got. The more business I got, the more time it demanded. You know the drill. I still have some customers from back then.

Which flags are popular for Flag Day these days? Is it is the 50-star flag, or are there other ones that are popular with Americans?

The most popular category is of course 50-star flags of all types. Below that, I bet it is a toss up between military and historic flags with maybe historic flags having the edge. Historic flags are a real niche for The Flag Guys. The Gadsden flag has really taken off the last couple of years due to its popularity among the Tea Party folks. Many people even call it "The Tea Party Flag" because they are unaware of its existence as a Revolutionary War flag from 1775.

It was through my flag business that I became an ardent history buff. Early on, I became interested in The War Between The States from my customers who are reenactors. From there, I got deeper and deeper into all American history to the extent that I am working on a quest to visit the birthplace, home, and grave of every US President and Signer. I can't get enough, especially of our founding period, and intend one day to live in Philadelphia, where I go now quite a bit.

Do some Americans need to be reminded it is Flag Day?

Yes. When I was growing up, this holiday was not on our radar all that much. I have noticed more of an awareness of this day over the last 5 years or so. Locally, a town clerk has made it a cause and the paper editorializes about it. I like the notion that it is a day all about honoring and respecting our flag. The Elks have always been very involved in Flag Day. They do wonderful programs around it.

It’s believed Hopkinson chose six-pointed starts because they figured prominently in his family coat of arms.

It’s believed Hopkinson chose six-pointed starts because they figured prominently in his family coat of arms.

Because of my New Jersey background, I'm biased in favor of the flag designed by Declaration Signer and New Jerseyan Francis Hopkinson. Can you tell us briefly how you came to sell this flag? Is it a popular seller?

The credit goes to Earl Williams, a fellow member of the North American Vexillological Association, an organization made up of flag scholars and enthusiasts. My connection to Earl and the story of my producing The Hopkinson Flag really began with our mutual involvement with NAVA. I tell the story of Earl and the Hopkinson flag here. Back in the early nineties, he contacted us with the suggestion that we produce this flag. Like most people, I had never heard of Francis Hopkinson. Earl had done a great deal of research about him and his involvement with the creation of our flag. Over many months, Earl gradually made me see that the story is compelling and that a version of what could have been Hopkinson's flag deserved to be offered. Early on in my business, I took suggestions for new and interesting flags seriously and still do. Many of the historical flags I offer have come from requests. So I took a chance and produced a batch. It is a popular flag, though I would not say it is a widespread seller. It does have a devoted following, including a Hopkinson descendant.

How can Americans learn more about how to display and care for their flag?

The flag questions we get come in two categories. One is flag etiquette. I really appreciate it when people care enough to want to do right by Old Glory. Every professional flag dealer I know provides that kind of information. I have an extensive flag etiquette page that deals with all kinds of flag questions that folks ask me. The other category I always get questions about is what I call "tech support." How do I install this? Or how do I attach a flag to a pole? That kind of thing. For those issues, I recommend you check out my "how to page."

By the way, just so you know, I’ll be flying my Hopkinson flag today. Thanks for joining us.

Thank you a million for asking me. I've enjoyed it!


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your collection of free ebooks, go here. Thanks!

LAST DAY! The $2.99 Special NOOK Price for Signing Their Lives Away ends today!

I hate to interrupt what is no doubt an amazing holiday weekend for you. Just a quick reminder that we at Casa D’Agnese-Kiernan are running two specials this week.

The first ends today. The special Nook $2.99 ebook price for Signing Their Lives Away ends today, so grab it while you can. Carpe that freaking diem.

Snag the deal here.

Quick reminder: Signing Their Lives Away tells the stories of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. I think it pairs nicely with summer, frosty brews, a slab of ribs, a beach umbrella, and a red-white-and-blue muumuu. Get your patriot on.

Meanwhile—if you need another reminder: Denise’s book is still on sale for $3.99 through the end of May. Yay.


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here. Thanks!

NOOK Sale: Signing Their Lives Away ebook is on sale for $2.99!

2019-4-19-11-STLA-Memorial Day Sale.png

Our publisher just let us know that our bestselling book, Signing Their Lives Away, is on sale. The special Nook ebook price is $2.99, so if you’ve been meaning to check it out, now is the time.

The deal is supposed to start tomorrow, but I just checked, and the new price is up as of TODAY, May 20th. The deal i supposed to run through Memorial Day weekend, and end late on 5/27. If you are traveling or have plans for the holiday weekend, don’t take a chance. Carpe that freaking diem.

Snag the deal here.

Quick reminder: Signing Their Lives Away tells the stories of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. I think it pairs nicely with summer, frosty brews, a slab of ribs, a beach umbrella, and a red-white-and-blue muumuu. Get your patriot on.

Meanwhile—if you need another reminder: Denise’s book is still on sale for $3.99 through the end of May. Yay.


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here. Thanks!

Listen to My Interview on The Jim Bohannon Show

Photo by  Israel Palacio  via  Unsplash

Last week was really fun, doing promotion for the release of the paperbacks of our two history titles, Signing Their Lives Away and Signing Their Rights Away. I thought I’d share this one interview I did with veteran broadcaster Jim Bohannon. It was a late-night, call-in talk show, something I’ve never done.

If you’re interested, I show up at the 39:33 mark and run until 1:19:00, almost a full hour. “Jimbo” asked great questions, and was a good host to work with. I had to stay up way past my bedtime to record this! Let me know if you can tell I was zonked.

As always, you can investigate what the books are about at this page.


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here. Thanks — Joseph D’Agnese

One Last Video—and Thanks for Watching!

I’m sharing another short video that we shot for a work-in-progress documentary about the lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Before we jump in, just a reminder that you can find out about the two new paperbacks at one of the links right here.

The goal of our video project was to visit all the historic sites associated with the 56 Signers of the Declaration. In this installment, we’re visiting the birthplace of Signer Arthur Middleton. Today Middleton Place is a stunning and thoughtful tourist destination located in Charleston, South Carolina. Well worth visiting if you’re ever in the area.

Just reminder: The road trip URL referenced in the trailer is now defunct. I haven’t had a chance to update it.

I hope you like it. We have a few more videos to share but we haven’t made them public yet. I’ll post them when they’re released. Thanks for watching.


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here. Thanks — Joseph D’Agnese

Day 3—and Another One of My Videos!

So anyhoo—I’m back with another of the videos we shot looking at the lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. I know, I know: you’re dying to check out our two new paperbacks on the men behind these founding documents. Grab them at one of the links right here.

The goal of our video project was to visit all the historic sites associated with the 56 Signers of the Declaration. This time around, we’re visiting the birthplace of Signer Thomas Lynch Jr. Today Hopsewee Plantation is a tourist destination located in Georgetown, South Carolina.

Just reminder: The road trip URL referenced in the trailer is now defunct. I haven’t had a chance to update it.

I hope you like it and are moved to visit Hopsewee. It’s a lovely place, run by great people who are dedicated to its preservation.


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here. Thanks — Joseph D’Agnese

Book Launch Day—and Here's Another Video!

JoeDenise-author-tricorn hat-photo-Mallory Cash.jpeg

Our two history titles are finally out in paperback today! The world rejoices, ‘cuz, geez, it only took eight years. Grab them at one of the links right here.

To celebrate the launch, I’m running some videos of a documentary project we started working on ourselves some years ago. The goal: to visit all the historic sites associated with the 56 Signers of the Declaration. This is a lovely video shot in Charleston. South Carolina, at the home of Signer Edward Rutledge, which is now an inn. Rutledge was all of 26 years old when he signed the historic document. His other claim to fame? He’s an ancestor of actress Goldie Hawn and her daughter Kate Hudson.

Just reminder: The road trip URL referenced in the trailer is now defunct. I haven’t had a chance to update it.

Less comedy this time around, but still interesting.

By the way, the books look fantastic. The publisher, Quirk Books, did a lovely job.


Above photo by Mallory Cash.

Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here. Thanks — Joseph D’Agnese

My Video: In Search of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

To celebrate the launch of our paperbacks this week, I’ll be running some videos of a documentary project we developed years ago. The goal: to visit all the historic sites associated with the 56 Signers of the Declaration. This is the first and probably the funniest trailer we put together.

And a quick reminder that if you’re interested in grabbing a copy of the new newly revised and updated paperbacks, you can check out the links to all my titles right here.

Another quick note: the URL referenced in the trailer is now defunct. I haven’t had a chance to update it.

And now, please enjoy, and let me know if you think I have a future in comedy.


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here. Thanks — Joseph D’Agnese