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Celebrating 'Old Glory': Five Fast Facts for Flag Day

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For most Americans, National Flag Day is pretty self-explanatory: On June 14, I put my flag out. Flag Day may not have the exciting holiday history of Independence Day or the stirring observations and ceremonies of Memorial Day, but it maintains the highest, most distinct level of visibilty of any holiday. Seeing "the Stars and Stripes" flying outside of homes and office buildings or emblazoned on shirts and other paraphernalia raises everyone's national pride.

Flag Day memorializes the official adoption of our current version of the American flag as the national flag by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. But the push for it to become significant in the public eye came from school teacher Bernard Cigrand. He is credited by the National Flag Day Foundation for leading the charge, resulting in a Congressional declaration -- rubber stamped by President Harry Truman -- in 1949.

But what of the flag itself?

1. Through myth and legend, Betsy Ross is known as the first crafter of the American flag. She was born Elizabeth Griscom on New Year's Day in 1752 in Philadelphia. She was the eighth of seventeen children.

2. The term "Old Glory" was first used by a young American sea captain named William Driver in the 1820s. 

3. Francis Scott Key, writer of "The Star-Spangled Banner," was a lawyer by trade. He wrote a poem that would become our nation's national anthem while aboard a British ship. As part of a prisoner exchange negotiation party during the British's bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, Key saw "the flag was still there" through the smoke clouds while sequestered in a holding deck.

4. The maker of the flag Key saw was named Mary Young Pickersgill, a denizen of Baltimore who was tapped by Major George Armistead, commander of the forces at Fort McHenry, to sew a flag "so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance." The result was the 30' x 42' flag that caught Key's eye. 

5. Since Nov. 2008, Pickersgill's creation has been on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.after the completion of its conservation project in 2006.

Enter your thoughts and ways you're celebrating Flag Day in our Comments section below. -- Christian Pelusi, USO 

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More Flag Day coverage: 

Don't Tread on Me: Analyzing What is Free Speech and What is Desecration of the Flag 

Using Proper Flag Etiquette When Celebrating 




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