Curator's Choice tells the stories behind prized objects and artifacts from the collections of historical organizations and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry known widely as the First City Troop, was originally organized as the Light Horse of the City of Philadelphia at a meeting conducted at Carpen­ters’ Hall on November 17, 1774. A purely volunteer cavalry troop, it is the oldest mounted military unit in the country’s history.

The founders – mostly individuals of conspicuous prominence engaged in commerce such as shipping, importing, and trading – voted to equip and support themselves at their own expense and to offer their services to the Continental Congress. Members were drawn from a number of prestigious social organizations of the day, including the Fishing Company of the State in Schuylkill, the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia, the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick, the Society of the Sons of St. George, and the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club.

To prepare for active duty, the cavalry drilled at five o’clock in the morning and again at five o’clock in the afternoon several times a week. The unit saw active duty during the American Revolution, escorting General George Washington to distant points in the colonies, capturing Hessians during the Battle of Trenton, and assisting Washington rout three British regiments during the Battle of Princeton. The troop took part in the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777 and in the Battle of German­town the following month. Members last served President Washington by participating in a funeral pageant “at the State House for the purpose of paying the sad tribute of veneration to the remains of their late Commander in Chief.”

At the time of the American Revolution, there was no common flag in use by any of the colonies. Not long after news of the Battle of Lexington reached Philadelphia, Abraham Markoe, the unit’s first captain, commissioned a standard that he presented to the troop in summer 1775. Modified the following year to reflect the nation’s independence, thirteen alternate stripes of dark and light hues were superimposed over the original British “union jack” device to disassociate it from England and emphasize the significance of the original thirteen colonies. Many historians cite the Markoe Standard as the progenitor of the Flag of the United States.

Troops carried the flag into battle during the Revolutionary War and in parades until about 1830, when they retired it for safekeeping. Today, the standard is the centerpiece of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry Museum, housed in the unit’s armory. Museum galleries exhibit a spectacular collection of portraits, military accouterments and decorations, uniforms, equipment, and memorabilia, from the late eighteenth century to the present. The museum is open free to the public by advance arrangements.

For more information, write: First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, The Armory, 22 South Twenty-Third Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103; telephone (215) 564-1488; or visit