Alert citizen discovers historic souvenirs being sold at historic souvenir shops

A New Jersey man noticed Gadsden flag merchandise for sale at Gettysburg National Military Park’s bookstore and then went off on a three-alarm tear:

“It isn’t sold in a historically relevant context,” said Paul Gioni, a battlefield enthusiast from Mahwah, N.J., who contacted the National Park Service and The Evening Sun after visiting the park recently. “This is blatantly political merchandise.”

The nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation operates the bookstore and a spokeswoman said the Gadsden flag merchandise serves a goal of representing the broader context of American history. Furthermore, Cindy Small said, there remain connections between the Gadsden flag and fighting at Gettysburg.

“During the Civil War, the flag was used in some Southern states as a symbol of secession,” she said.

Personally, I think there’s a legitimate case to be made that a Civil War battlefield isn’t the best venue for selling a flag usually associated with the Rev War, but this isn’t it.
“The flag is legitimate in the proper context,” Gioni said. “The problem is this flag has been hijacked for the political stage. It’s definitely partisan and definitely inappropriate. The park should be politically neutral.”

Look, when it comes to historic sites, the Gadsden flag is pretty neutral.  Unless you’re a monarchist.

Gioni doesn’t believe the Gettysburg bookstore is pushing partisan politics. Rather, he said, the items are probably stocked because they sell.

I think that’s a safe bet.  Stores usually stock items because they sell.

“When you’re in an election year, you know this stuff is going to make a fast buck,” he said. “They’re disregarding what’s appropriate in the interest of money.”

The folks at Gettysburg denied any intention of pandering to present-day politics, and I don’t see any reason not to believe them.  In any case, GNMP has only gotten one complaint about the Gadsden merch.  So I’m not saying it’s just you, Gioni, but…it’s just you.

By Arman Manookian (Honolulu Academy of Arts) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



Filed under History and Memory

4 responses to “Alert citizen discovers historic souvenirs being sold at historic souvenir shops

  1. Gioni appears to have a very thin skin or is making his complaint based on his own political motives. The folks at the store are not necessarily making a political statement by selling the flag, however, they are making a smart business decision by offering this flag. I would venture to state that most people who visit National Parks would tend to skew conservative and many would be tempted to purchase this flag on their visit. When you consider that the town of Gettysburg is one big kitsch store of all manner of memorabilia and souvenirs, this issue pales in comparison. Was this the same store that was selling John Wilkes Booth bobble-head statues? I am not sure if I would have sold it, but it was their decision to do so, and I am certain that many would have purchased the JWB bobble-head. As both a reenactor, Rev War and Civil, and as a part time actor who has portrayed many historical characters, I think that there is a tendency within a small vocal segment of the historical population, particularly the Civil War community, to become overly sacrosanct regarding every single minutiae of history. Those who believe themselves ideologically pure in thought and action are condemning those who are not to the guillotine.

  2. Bill cahill

    You say that the person lodging the complaint has either thin skin or is motivated by his own political beliefs – yet you do the same thing when you assume that most who visit Gettysburg are Conservative in viewpoint – what a slap in the face to veterans who also happen to lean in the liberal direction, as well as to those liberals who visit battlefields to pay homage to those who died for their liberty. I have seen no statistics supporting your belief that most of these people are conservatives.

    As to being zealous in insisting that history should be accurately portrayed, FOX News is a perfect example of how quickly bizarre conclusions can be reached when one starts to play free and easy with historical facts.

  3. ArchLover

    I saw similar merchandise (albeit in a context the “alert citizen” would consider more appropriate) when I visited the Yorktown Victory Center. I love that symbol, but the fact that it has been appropriated by the Tea Party is what actually stopped me from buying it, because I didn’t want anyone who didn’t know me to think I was associated with that movement. Just have to stick with Join or Die for now 🙂

  4. Pingback: Is the Gadsden flag too hot to handle? | Past in the Present

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