This c.1920 photo is part of the Garland Patch Collection (72.77)
The oldest flagpole in America is the Liberty Pole in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It is 110-feet tall located at Prescott Park. The Liberty Pole is one of the notable features within the park.
The city of Portsmouth, NH describes Liberty Pole as the oldest flagpole in America. Bard AI recognizes it as the oldest flagpole in America. New England Historical Society states the existing flagpole has been standing since 1899.
Portsmouth’s Sons of Liberty placed a flagpole on the spot where the current flagpole stands on January 9, 1766. It was replaced on the Fourth of July in 1824 (as an extension of the City’s 1823 200th anniversary celebration), again in 1872 and again by a taller pole on the Fourth of July in 1899.
In 1824 a carved and gilded pine eagle was placed atop the Liberty Pole. When that was replaced in 1978 it was placed on display in the old Portsmouth Public Library and now stands at the foot of the central “Staircase to Enlightenment” at the library.
On January 9, 1766, what we now know as the Liberty Pole was raised by the Sons of Liberty in protest of the Stamp Act. Nine years before the beginning of the American Revolution, the Liberty Pole was a rallying point for opposition to the Stamp Act.
The current mahogany and gold leaf eagle was carved by Ron Raiselis, master cooper and wood carver at Strawberry Banke and placed in 2002. The original carved and painted shield at the bottom of the Liberty Pole was added in 1857 and was placed on display in Sheafe Warehouse (along with the second eagle) when it was replaced in the 1970s. The current shield was carved and put in place in 2016.
The inscription on the historical marker reads: "Liberty, Property & no Stamps on a flag flown on the first Portsmouth Liberty Pole in January 1766, in response to British attempts to tax products without American representation in Parliament, the Portsmouth Sons of Liberty returned the royal commission of the local stamp agent to England. They then erected a flagstaff and rechristened the old span "Liberty Bridge" - a name it bore until the City filled the waterway in 1899.
A new pole, erected with public donations in 1824 was "adorned with a cap, and surmounted with a splendid eagle" as a patriotic memorial. In 1857, a shield was attached to the pole and finally in 1899 the pole was again replaced by a taller pole to hold the regilded 1824 eagle."
In 2019, the City of Portsmouth repainted the historic Liberty Pole. The painstaking work of scraping and then painting the 110-foot wooden mast took several days. The Liberty Pole is a popular tourist destination in Portsmouth. It is often used as a gathering place for community events, such as concerts and festivals.
*Note: Some claim the Liberty Pole in Mystic, CT is the oldest flagpole. However that original flagpole was replaced as late as 2011. This makes the Liberty Pole in Portsmouth, NH (last replaced in 1899) as the oldest flagpole in the United States.