Why oldest US maker of Confederate flag will stop production

Annin Flagmakers, in business since 1847, announced that it will stop making and selling the Confederate flag. 

REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Daisy Nesmith sews U.S. flags at Valley Forge's manufacturing facility in Lane, South Carolina June 23, 2015. Prominent U.S. flag makers said on Tuesday they will stop manufacturing and selling Confederate battle flags after last week's attack on worshippers at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Reggie VandenBosch, vice president of sales at privately owned Valley Forge Flag, said the Pennsylvania-based company came to the decision as pressure grew on South Carolina to remove the banner from outside the State House in Columbia. The 133-year-old company sells millions of flags each year, VandenBosch said, with Confederate flags making up only a tiny slice of that business.

The nation's oldest and largest flag manufacturer has decided to stop making and selling the Confederate flag.

Annin Flagmakers, in business since 1847, announced its decision Tuesday. The northern New Jersey company's announcement comes amid calls for South Carolina to remove the flag from its statehouse in the wake of a shooting that killed nine at a historic black church in Charleston.

Company President Carter Beard tells NJ.com the flag has become a symbol of a negative aspect of the country's past.

Beard says the flag represents only a small portion of its business. He says those who value the flag as a symbol of state or regional history will be able to find it through other sellers.

Reggie VandenBosch, vice president of sales at the privately owned Valley Forge Flag, said the Pennsylvania-based company also came to the decision to stop making the Confederate flag as pressure grew on South Carolina to remove the banner from outside the State House in Columbia

The move comes as several major retailers, such as Walmart and Amazon, announced Tuesday that they will stop selling the Confederate flag. 

The Christian Science Monitor reports that CEOs and politicians are voicing support for a removal of the symbol. 

Indeed, economists and political scientists see parallels to the current groundswell of opinion surrounding the flag and the public and corporate backlash against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in March. (After critics accused politicians of trying to codify discrimination against gay couples, the state ended up modifying the law to include protections for LGBT Hoosiers.) In fact, many of the same CEOs, including the heads of Apple and Salesforce, have spoken out in favor of taking down the flag.

In both cases, businesses have shown an increasing willingness to wade into hot-button social issues – in a contrast with the staid, controversy-averse corporate image of the past. This is not a case of liberal ideals trumping the bottom line, economists say. Rather it’s a recognition of the importance of attracting both the talent and economic drawing power of Millennials, who marketers say seek out companies that reflect their social values. It appears that – at least in certain instances – social activism is good business.

“Corporate America recognizes that Millennials will have increasing spending power and financial authority over the next 30 years, and they’re, at least in the abstract, pro-gay marriage and anti-racism,” says Matthew Guterl, an American studies professor at Brown University in Rhode Island.

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