Town officials are seeking the public’s help in trying to learn more about a large flag that has been in storage for many years.

The flag features the familiar 13 red and white stripes of the American flag, but in the blue field a circle of 13 stars surrounds an anchor at an angle. According to several Web sites, this design is known as the United States yacht ensign.

First Selectwoman Sara Bradford and Assessor’s Assistant Donna Sanborn explained that the flag was kept in storage on the third floor — essentially an attic — of the former Town Office building on Main Street for an unknown number of years.

When a new Town Office building was opened in 2000, Sanborn said she found the flag as she was boxing up items that had been stored in the attic area. The flag was put in a box and brought to the new Town Office and has remained in storage there for the past decade.

During a recent cleaning session at the new Town Office, the flag was rediscovered. In an effort to determine where the flag came from and when it was in use, town officials have put it on display in a case in the upstairs meeting room.

“Somebody knows, I bet,” said Bradford. She speculated that someone in town might recognize the flag as having belonged to a relative, or may recall when and where it flew.

Bradford and Sanborn both said the flag looks to have been sewn by machine, rather than by hand. Although an exact measurement was not taken, the flag appears to measure approximately 13 feet wide by 7 feet tall.

The dictionary defines an ensign as, “a national flag displayed on ships and aircraft.” The Web site flagstuff.com states that the history of the U.S. yacht ensign dates back to the late 1840s, as more and more non-commercial boats began to take to the water. Commodore John Cox Stevens of the New York Yacht Club, working with federal officials, “devised a way to bypass the Customs House when entering a port by hoisting a signal indicating this was a private vessel with no commercial cargo,” according to the Web site.

An article on Wikipedia about various ensigns in the United States reports that the yacht ensign was created in 1848 as a signal flag to be used by United States yachts, for the reasons outlined above.

“However, many boaters started using this [signal flag] as an ensign, and eventually the government announced that they would accept this practice for boats in United States waters; but the national flag was still the only ensign allowable in international or foreign waters,” the article on Wikipedia states.

The law officially recognizing the existence of the yacht ensign has since been repealed, but the article on Wikipedia notes that “the old yacht ensign is still widely used by boaters, continuing a tradition which dates back to the 19th century.”