Sew Proudly It Hails

A small Texas company sets a new standard for patriotic self-promotion with its Inauguration Day flags

It's no secret why companies pay big bucks to have their names emblazoned all over big-league sports arenas: the hope that TV cameras will broadcast their corporate logos along with the action on the field.

Now a small Texas company has made a bid -- literally -- for national exposure of its work at an event that happens just once every four years: the Presidential Inauguration. Dixie Flag Manufacturing Co. in San Antonio, Tex., submitted a winning bid of roughly $1,500 for the job of stitching seven wall-sized American flags, five of which will provide the backdrop for George W. Bush's Jan. 20 swearing-in.


  The five flags include one with 50 stars, two 13-star replicas of the Betsy Ross original, and one with 28 stars that marks the entry of Texas into the Union. And the other two? Well, they're not likely to be flapping in the breeze anytime soon. Each displays 20 stars and would have honored Tennessee if Vice-President Al Gore had triumphed on Nov. 7. "When they placed the order, they still didn't know who the President was going to be," says Pete Van de Putte Jr., whose father founded the 50-employee company in 1958.

While Dixie Flag's banners have flown over political conventions and college bowl games, the Inaugural flags are a first. The company's name won't be on display, and Van de Putte isn't expecting a wave of orders to follow. But he thinks the exposure will burnish the company's reputation among event planners.

Van de Putte should also hope that history won't repeat itself. According to Bruce Milhans, a spokesman for the Architect of the Capitol's office, the last company to produce Inauguration flags has since quit the business.

By Julie Fields in New York