Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Opinion: Long may it wave…

June 11, 2003

In honor of Flag Day, celebrated this Saturday, we offer these few tidbits of flag trivia:

  • Today's flag, with six rows of seven stars and an eighth row of eight, is the 27th evolution of the national symbol, starting with the first 13-star, 13-stripe version, authorized by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.
  • Apparently no one knows who designed the first flag, although opinion seems to be coalescing around Congressman Francis Hopkinson.
  • Few historians now believe that Betsy Ross, the Philadelphia seamstress of popular legend, made the first flag.
  • Until President Taft signed an executive order on June 24, 1912, the proportions of the flag varied with the designer's whim. Taft's edict established the proportions in use today, and provided for the arrangement of the stars, a single point of each to be upward.
  • "Old Glory," the popular sobriquet, was the inspiration of Capt. Stephen Driver, a ship's master from Salem, Mass., who was presented a new flag as the brig Charles Doggett set sail in 1831. As the beautiful new flag caught its first sea breeze and unfurled, Driver exclaimed "Old Glory." He took the flag with him when he retired to Nashville, Tenn., in 1837. By the time Tennessee seceded during the Civil War, Driver's "Old Glory" was well known in Nashville. Rebels tried several times to destroy Driver's beloved flag, but could never find it. After Union forces captured Nashville in 1862, they raised a small ensign. Prompted to provide a more suitable replacement, Driver went home and began to rip at the seams to his bedcover. As onlookers saw the seams come asunder they saw the venerable 24-star flag inside. Capt. Driver's grave in the old Nashville City Cemetery is one of three places that Congress has authorized flying the flag 24 hours a day.
  • On Sept. 8, 1892, "The Youth's Companion," a Boston magazine, published a few words written by its circulation manager, Francis Bellamy, intended for school children to read on Oct. 12, 1892, the quadricentennial of Columbus' arrival. More than 12 million children thus began the school-day ritual. Congress officially recognized the Pledge in 1942. In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children could not be forced to recite it. Today, only half the 50 states have laws that encourage reciting the Pledge in the classroom. President Eisenhower issued an executive order in June of 1954 to add the words "under God," to reaffirm "the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future."
  • Flag Day itself, as seems to be the case so often, originally was the project of a schoolteacher, B.J. Cigrand of Fredonia, Wis., in 1885. The New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution celebrated Flag Day beginning in 1892. The state of New York first celebrated Flag Day in 1894. President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 proclaimed the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777. President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 as Flag Day in 1949.
  • Weather permitting, the flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset every day, but especially on 21 specified days, including Flag Day and all the major national holidays, plus all state and local holidays. (Ironically, the list of prescribed days includes Mother's Day but not Father's Day. One can only guess why Father's Day is omitted from this list. It seems curious, to say the least.)

So, this Saturday, on Flag Day, let it all hang out. Or, more properly, unfurl your flag.

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