Grand Marais man makes Civil War flags for big budget movie
Bill Dalin is co-owner of North Shore Pest Control with his wife Kate. When he isn’t busy ridding homes and businesses of unwelcome pests, he is busy making Union or Confederate flags and taking part in Civil War reenactments. A couple of months ago Dalin was asked to make five flags for a movie being made about the War Between the States. He didn’t have much time and didn’t know if he would be able to complete the assignment, but with his brother Tim’s help, the flags were finished and delivered on time.
The Cook County News-Herald recently sat down with Bill Dalin to talk about his flag-making hobby. Q.What is name of the movie you are currently creating flags for? Dalin: The movie is called Beautiful Creatures being made by Warner Brothers. Q.How many flags did you make?
What do they represent? Dalin: I made five flags—National and Regimental Colors—representing three different regiments of Union infantry. The regiments were the 25th Ohio Volunteer Infantry; 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the 144th New York Volunteer Infantry. The movie will show these flags in a huge battle scene depicting these regiments in battle formation. Q.Do you have to use special flag making material? Dalin: We use silk. Each flag is six feet tall (hoist) and 6 1/2 feet wide (fly) and is made with two panels of silk 36 inches wide. Q.How long have you made flags?
Dalin: I have made flags for about 10 years. Q.How long does it take you to make a flag? Do you come up with the design or does an artist do that? Dalin: It normally takes a month or more to make a flag; to do the research, layout and painting. My flags are all exacting historical reproductions of 150-year-old flags and I go to the individual state historical societies or find images online to get the artwork. They were all individually hand made and all different. I am the primary artist but I collaborate with my brother Tim Dalin in Grand Marais and we work on technique and layout from time to time. The flags I have done so far are U.S. battle flags only. I am doing my first Confederate flag later this month for an artillery battery in New Orleans, Louisiana. Q.Who taught you how to make flags?
Dalin: I’m totally self-taught. There are only a few who do this and they hold their methods close to the vest. It took a lot of trial and error and asking questions of artists who work in both oils and acrylics. I have had the opportunity to see and actually work “hands on” with Minnesota’s historic battle flag collection and that was very important to understand how these flags were painted. Q.Why do you make flags?
Dalin: I make them for several reasons. I love American, and especially Minnesotan, history during this period, It allows me to honor and perpetuate the memory of those men who sacrificed so much during that period of “National Insanity” we call the Civil War. Civil War battle flags were used as rallying points and were cherished and honored by those who fought under them. Each bullet hole, shrapnel scar and stain of blood added to the sacredness of these banners. Men volunteered to be in the Color Guard even though they knew that those flags drew enemy bullets like a magnet draws iron. Making them gives me a chill when I do that last brush stroke and realize I just made that magical connection with history. Q.How long have you been a Civil
War re-enactor? Dalin: If you can believe this, I did my first re-enactment in 1968. Q.What other movies have you been in? Dalin: I have been in two productions, the movie Glory, the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers and the miniseries The Blue and the Grey. Many of my friends were in Dances with Wolves and Gettysburg as well. Q.What is the budget of the current movie? When is it due to be shot and released? Dalin: I’m not sure of the budget. I have heard $100 million but that is totally unverified. It is scheduled to be released February15, 2013. It is currently in heavy filming in the New Orleans area. Q.How did the producers get your name? Dalin: I sold a flag to someone out east a few years back and he knew someone with the studio that gave me a call. I am glad he liked it enough to pass on my name. Q.Will you be the “Tom Cruise” of
American flag makers? Bigger than
Cruise? Dalin: Not likely!