In recent years, the flag has been adopted by conservative Republicans and Tea Party protesters, which has led one battlefield enthusiast to question the decision by the Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center bookstore to sell items bearing the emblem.
At the Gettysburg battlefield bookstore, shoppers can find the Gadsden flag on shot glasses, mugs, magnets and pins. An employee told The (Hanover) Evening Sun ( http://bit.ly/MtCVwY) that they were the only items in the store related to the Revolutionary War.
Paul Gioni, of Mahwah, N.J., said he contacted the National Park Service and the newspaper about the issue after a recent visit to the park.
"It isn't sold in a historically relevant context," he said. "This is blatantly political merchandise."
Cindy Small of the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation, which operates the bookstore, said the Gadsden flag merchandise serves a goal of representing the broader context of American history. Small also said there are connections between the Gadsden flag and the fighting at Gettysburg.
"During the Civil War, the flag was used in some Southern states as a symbol of secession," she said.
Sale of the Gadsden flag merchandise at Gettysburg has received approval from park officials, which is required for all merchandise sold at national parks, Gettysburg spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said.
National Park Service spokesman David Barna said the merchandise falls in line with efforts to educate the public.
"The Gadsden flag, to us, is a piece of history," he said. "At these Civil War sites, we don't try to just have Civil War history. But we try to pique people's interest in history throughout the nation."
National Park bookstores have come under fire in the past for selling some items, for example a book linking the Grand Canyon to Noah's flood and books of American Indian folklore such as one saying bears formed the Devil's Tower. Protests against the Gettysburg store's sales of bobblehead dolls of President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, led to removal of the items in March.
Barna said the Park Service follows strict guidelines to prevent the appearance of religious or political affiliations.
"We're very careful about what we do, especially in an election year," Barna said. "These items with the Gadsden flag were not selected to have anything to do with current political issues out there."
Gioni said he believes the Gettysburg store stocks the Gadsden items not out of partisan politics but simply because they sell.
"When you're in an election year, you know this stuff is going to make a fast buck," he said. "They're disregarding what's appropriate in the interest of money."
The Gettysburg foundation said it has no plans to pull the merchandise.
"The Gadsden flag for sale in the museum bookstore is one of a number of items available for purchase that broadly represents American history," Small said. "Therefore, we will continue to sell it in our store."
Information from: The Evening Sun, http://www.eveningsun.com