Monday, June 14, 2010
The painting above, The Birth of Old Glory, was created around 1917 by Edward Percy Moran to depict the presentation of the first American flag to George Washington by Betsy Ross of Philadelphia in 1776. Research by the Smithsonian Institution, however, has revealed that this event probably never occurred. Someone undoubtedly made the first American flag. It just wasn’t Betsy Ross. That is a myth. But on this day in 1777, Congress adopted the new flag as the official emblem of the new nation.
By the War of 1812, several more states had been added to the Union: Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Louisiana. Even though there were 18 states, the U.S. flag contained 15 stars and fifteen stripes at that time. It had become obvious that adding a new star and a new stripe every time a state was added would not work. This 15-star, 15-stripe version is the flag that 35-year-old amateur poet Francis Scott Key witnessed during the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay in 1814. His poem, originally titled “Defence of Fort McHenry,” was set to the tune of ”To Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular British drinking song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London. Later, the title was changed to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The tune and Key’s poem did not become the official national anthem of the United States until 1931.
Today, the U.S. flag has 13 stripes to represent the original 13 colonies and 50 stars, one for each state.
Although traditionally only the first verse of the anthem is sung, some of the other verses are definitely worth a listen.
(Click here to hear an expanded version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”)
Note. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like this one.