Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Flag Day 2018 : The American Flag, a Symbol of Freedom and Sacrifice for Everyone Wherever She Flies
Flag DAY, JUNE 14. President Ronald Reagan's Flag Day Proclamation for Flag Day, 1981, said : "When we honor our Flag we honor what we stand for as a Nation – freedom, equality, justice, and hope." • • • THE AMERICAN Flag RESOLUTION. Who created the US Flag? There is compelling evidence that it was Betsy Ross. Several of her relatives testified to having heard extensive details of the Flag's creation from her. The testimony is entirely plausible, and no other claimant has ever produced any equally compelling evidence. The Continental Congress left no record to show why it chose the colors. However, in 1782, the Congress of the Confederation chose these same colors for the Great Seal of the United States and listed their meaning as follows : "Red : Valor and hardiness; White : Purity and innocence; Blue : Vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The stars of the original American Flag were in a circle so that no one colony would be viewed above another. It is reported that George Washington said, "Let the 13 stars in a circle stand as a new constellation in the heavens." The American Flag is often called "Old Glory" because in 1831, when Captain William Driver, a shipmaster from Salem, Massachusetts, left on one of his many world voyages, friends presented him with a Flag of 24 stars. As the banner opened to the ocean breeze, he exclaimed, "Old Glory." He kept his Flag for many years, protecting it during the Civil War, until it was flown over the Tennessee capital. His "Old Glory" became a nickname for all American Flags. • • • THE CANBY HISTORY OF THE CREATION OF THE Flag. In March 1870, William Canby, the grandson of Betsy Ross, gave a paper before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that has become the source of many facts aboutthe Flag. The paper was titled "The History of the Flag of the United States." William Canby's paper was his attempt to give as much factual history about the Flag as he could find. But, his search finally focused on "certain information relating to the making of the Flag, in the possession of a few individuals, now far advanced in years..." After what Canby called "the most careful and searching inquiry," including his personal search of the National Archives, the only written evidence about the creation of the American Flag that Canby found was this : "In Dunlap's Journal of Congress, at the date of June 14th, 1777, Vol III, page 235, occurs the only scrap of official history in reference to the origin of the Flag of the United States yet published. In the proceedings of Congress on this page is found the following resolution : 'Resolved that the Flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, which in a blue field, representing a new constellation.' " • There are legends about the Continental Congress keeping the creation of the Flag secret for some time. Canby said that little is known about any secrecy, but that it makes sense : "...whether it was not first adopted in secret session, and kept secret (for reasons best known at the time) for months, and afterwards when independence became a fact, was entered upon the public Journal; or whether there was an accidental omission of it from the record at the proper time, and, the omission being discovered, it was placed where it was out of order of its date; or whether that was really its true date, all inferences to the contrary notwithstanding, the record does not tell us." Canby added, "the magnificent fact of its conception is lost forever." • Canby then moves on to discuss the facts available : "Now to the facts, few we admit them to be, yet published, proving our case. But there are facts. The very latest accounts of the use of the British union Flag is on the sailing of the fleet from the Delaware in February 1776. The first historical account we have of the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes, occurs in the siege of Fort Schuyler on August 2nd, 1777 (see Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution, Vol 1, page 242). There is, however, another account which we think entitles to credit, of the hoisting of the 'stars and stripes' at least one year previously. The brig 'Nancy' captain Hugh Montgomery was sent out on Congress account to the West Indies, (Santa Cruz and Saint Thomas) for military stores, in the latter part of the year 1775. She sailed to her appointed destinations and brought home her cargo in July 1776, but was intercepted at the capes of the Delaware by a British fleet, and compelled to land her cargo outside of Cape May, which was nearly all got ashore during a fog, but the fog raising and being about to be captured, a train was laid of powder on board, and, after her crew had left, she blew up, destroying a large number of the British, who were about boarding her. There are divers accounts of this affair in the old books and newspapers; and in the journals of the committee of safety....None of these old accounts, however, say anything of the Flag she carried, on her return voyage and fight with the frigate. This is supplied by the daughter of Captain Montgomery, Miss Elizabeth Montgomery, in a book entitled "Reminiscences of Wilmington etc" published in Philadelphia in 1851. Of Miss Montgomery's carefulness and accuracy as a writer we have full testimonials. She writes what her father has told her, and as an active and efficient commander his statements are certainly entitled to credit....If this account is to be relied upon, our theory of the adoption of the Flag in secret session previously to the Fourth of July 1776, is fully sustained; for she says, 'When the cargo' (which they loaded at St Thomas) was nearly complete, information was received that independence was declared and a description of the colors adopted.' This is certainly a startling verification. Can it be that the account is wrong? We confess that the statement standing alone, circumstantial and conscientious as it evidently is, requires to be examined most critically in order to test its consistency as to the dates, with the other accounts of the affair of the Nancy, which say nothing about the Flag." • So, the Flag Resolution noted by Dunlap on June 14, 1777, could have been the public acknowledgement of a Flag resolution adopted at the same time as the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. • Canby then turns to the Betsy Ross story : "According to a well sustained tradition in the family of Elizabeth Claypoole (the Elizabeth 'Betsy' Ross), this lady is the one to whom belongs the honor of having made with her own hands the first Flag. Three of her daughters are still living who confirm this statement, not from their own knowledge, for the Flag was made before they were born, but from the recollection of their mother's often repeated narration and from hearing it told by others who were cognizant of the facts during their childhood; and there is also yet living a niece of Mrs Claypoole's, Mrs Margaret Boggs (now in her 95th year) who resides with a niece in Germantown, Philadelphia, and still has full possession of all her faculties, who remembers well the incidents of the transaction as she heard it told, in her intimate intercourse with the family many times." Canby relates that he had had a conversation about the Flag in 1857 with "the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Claypoole, then in active life, but since deceased, Mrs Clarissa S. Wilson, who succeeded her mother in the business of Flag and color making and continued it for many years. Mrs Wilson's statement was put in writing at the time, as have been also the statements of her sisters and of Mrs Boggs and the substance of them is now given." • Canby then relates the Betsy Ross history, which is typically American : "...to Philadelphia belongs the honor of having first flung the "Star Spangled Banner" to the breeze, and that to a Philadelphia lady, long since gathered to her fathers, belongs the honor of having made the first Flag with her own hands....Elizabeth, or Betsy as she was familiarly called...drove a thriving trade, was notable, prudent and industrious, and never had any time to spend in street gaping or gossip, and was, consequently, very much respected by her neighbors. She was the daughter of an influential and respectable member of the Society of Friends [Quakers], a House Carpenter by trade, whose name was Samuel Griscom. He lived on the North side of Arch Street, opposite Friends Burying ground (where the meeting house now stands) between Third and Fourth Streets, and had his shop on the rear of his lot upon Cherry Street. He had a numerous family, the seventh of whom was Elizabeth. She being unwilling to remain a dependent upon her father had accepted a situation as apprentice in a large upholstering establishment in this city...and had captivated with her modest deportment a youth, John Ross, her fellow apprentice. (This John Ross was a son of the Rev. Aeneas Ross then residing at New Castle, Delaware, at one time assistant minister of Christ Church in Philadelphia). John and Betsy formed a partnership for life, were married, and, on his arriving at age, were established in business by his father; but the partnership was dissolved in two years by John's death, leaving Mrs Ross, a young widow, without any children. Overcome with grief she allowed her establishment to be broken up by her relatives, and sold out at a considerable sacrifice, and she returned to her father's house to mourn her sad bereavement, and the early blighting of her hopes and plans for life. Here, however, she soon again became discontented with her dependent position and saw the mistake she had made in giving up her business. Without any means to depend upon but her hands, she rented the little house...and "hung up her shingle", inviting her former customers to her shop. With all her patient industry and perseverance, however, she found it difficult to get along, as the 'hard times' brought about by the revolutionary war, came upon her. She often pondered over the future, and brooded sometimes almost to despondency upon her troubles, yet she always rallied when she reflected upon the goodness of Providence who had never deserted her. Sitting sewing in her shop one day with her girls around her, several gentlemen entered. She recognized one of these as the uncle of her deceased husband, Col. GEORGE ROSS, a delegate from Pennsylvania to Congress. She also knew the handsome form and features of the dignified, yet graceful and polite Commander in Chief, who, while he was yet COLONEL WASHINGTON had visited her shop both professionally and socially many times, (a friendship caused by her connection with the Ross family). They announced themselves as a committee of congress, and stated that they had been appointed to prepare a Flag, and asked her if she thought she could make one, to which she replied, with her usual modesty and self reliance, that 'she did not know but she could try; she had never made one but if the pattern were shown to her she had not doubt of her ability to do it.' The committee were shown into her back parlor, the room back of the shop, and Col. Ross produced a drawing, roughly made, of the proposed Flag. It was defective to the clever eye of Mrs Ross and unsymetrical, and she offered suggestions which Washington and the committee readily approved. What all these suggestions were we cannot definitely determine, but they were of sufficient importance to involve an alteration and re-drawing of the design, which was then and there done by General George Washington, in pencil, in her back parlor. One of the alterations had reference to the shape of the stars. In the drawing they were made with six points. Mrs Ross at once said that this was wrong; the stars should be five pointed; they were aware of that, but thought there would be some difficulty in making a five pointed star. "Nothing easier" was her prompt reply and folding a piece of paper in the proper manner, with one clip of her ready scissors she quickly displayed to their astonished vision the five pointed star; which accordingly took its place in the national standard. General Washington was the active one in making the design, the others having little or nothing to do with it. When it was completed, it was given to William Barrett, painter, to paint....The committee suggested Mrs Ross to call at a certain hour at the counting house of one of their number, a shipping merchant, on the wharf. Mrs Ross was punctual to the appointment. The gentleman drew out of a chest an old ship's color, which he loaned her to show her how the sewing was done, and also the drawing painted by Barrett. Other designs had been prepared by the committee and one or two of them were placed in the hands of other seamstresses to be made. Betsy Ross went diligently to work upon her Flag, carefully examining the peculiar stitch in the old ship's color, which had been given her as a specimen, and recognizing, with the eye of a good mechanic its important characteristics, strength and elasticity. The Flag was soon finished, and Betsy returned it, the first 'Star Spangled Banner' that ever floated upon the breeze, to her employer. It was run up to the peak of one of his ships lying at the wharf, and received the unamimous approval of the committee and of a little group of bystanders looking on, and the same day was carried into the State House and laid before Congress, with a report from the committee. The next day Col. Ross called upon Betsy, and informed her that her work had been approved and her Flag adopted; and he now requested her to turn her whole attention to the manufacture of Flags, and gave her an unlimited order for as many as she could make; desiring her to go out forthwith and buy all the 'bunting and tack' in the city, and make Flags as fast as possible. Here was astounding news to Betsy! Her largest ideas of business heretofore had been confined to the furnishing of one or two houses at a time with beds, curtains and carpets; and she had only recently been depressed with the prospect of losing much of this limited business by reason of the high prices of materials, and the consequent retrenchment by citizens in luxuries that could be dispensed with. She sat ruminating upon her sudden good fortune some minutes before it occurred to her that she had not the means to make the extensive purchases required by the order; and, therefore, she would be utterly helpless to fill it; for these were the days of cash transactions, and such a thing as a poor person getting credit for a large amount of goods was altogether unheard of. Here was a dilemma. What was she to do? Like many others, she began already to doubt her good fortune and to dash her rising hopes with the reflections, 'this is too good luck for me, it cannot be.' Rising superior to this, however, she said to herself, 'We are not creatures of luck: have I not found that the Good One has never deserted me, and He will not now. I will buy all the bunting I can, and make it into these Flags, and will explain to Mr. Ross why I cannot get anymore. He will, no doubt, give orders to others, and so I shall lose a large part of this business : but I must be satisfied with a moderate share of it, and grateful too.' So she went to work. Scarcely had she finished her cogitations when Col. Ross re-entered the shop. 'It was very thoughtless of me' he remarked, 'when I was just here now, that I did not offer to supply you with the means for making these purchases; it might inconvenience you,' he said delicately, 'to pay out so much cash at once, here is something to begin with' (giving her a one hundred pound note) 'and you must draw on me at sight for what ever you require.' Mrs Ross was now effectively set up in the business of Flag and color making for the government; through all her after life, which was a long, useful and eventful one, she 'never knew what it was,' to use her own expression, 'to want employment,' this business (Flag-making for the government) remaining with her and in her family for many years. She was afterwards twice married; once to Joseph Ashbourne, a shipmaster in the merchant services, by whom she had one daughter, named Eliza, and after his death to John Claypoole....There were five daughters by this marriage with John Claypoole. He died August 3rd, 1817, at the age of 65, and was interred in the burial ground of the Society of Free Quakers....Owing to his paralysis his wife, the indefatigable Betsy Claypoole was compelled to carry on her business of Flag and color making to support the family. Of the five daughters (there was no son) the youngest died in infancy. The remaining four, Clarissa, Susan, Rachel and Jane having each married, raised families of children....Clarissa, then a widow, (Mrs Wilson) continued for a number of years longer to make Flags for the United States Government; and afterwards when from conscientious motives she gave up the business of the government, she (Mrs Wilson) continued to carry on Flag making for the mercantile marine until the year 1857. Elizabeth Claypoole died January 30th, 1836 in the house No 63 Cherry Street (above 5th) Philadelphia, occupied by her son-in-law Caleb H Canby, at the advanced age of 84 years, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, beloved and respected by all who had ever known her..." • William Canby wrote of his grandmother, Betsy Ross : "As an example of industry, energy and perseverance, and of humble reliance upon providence, though all the trials, which were not few, of her eventful life, the name of Elizabeth Claypoole is worthy of being placed on record for the benefit of those who should be similarly circumstanced. Not only did she conduct with ability and skill her arduous business; but she was one of those women, whose hearts, like the magnet to its pole, always turned towards poverty, sickness and sorrow, and lent itself to the alleviations of every distress; till she became, amongst her neighbors, like a kind shepherdess amidst her sheep, looked up to and beloved by all." • This history of Betsy Ross was handwritten by William J. Canby, her grandson. You can find histroical images of the American Flag at < http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/Flagfact.html >. • • • DEAR READERS, Betsy Ross made the first American Flag. We can be pretty certain that nothing will crop up from official or personal records of the Revolutionary War period to contradict that. • But a lot has happened to the American Flag since 1776. • On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner." It officially became the national anthem in 1931. Another woman, Mary Young Pickersgill, sewed the very large (3 ft x 42 ft) Star-Spangled Banner in the summer of 1813 that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 (1812-1814) and was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write what would become America's National Anthem. Pickersgill's Flag today hangs at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Her house still stands as a museum you can visit in Baltimore, Maryland. • On June 24, 1912, President William Howard Taft signed Executive Order that established proportions of the Flag and specifies arrangement and orientation of the stars. • On June 22, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved the Federal Flag Code, providing for uniform guidelines for the display and respect shown to the Flag. The Flag Code does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include any enforcement provisions, rather it functions simply as a guide for voluntary civilian compliance. • On August 13, 1949, President Harry S. Truman signed bill requesting the President call for Flag Day (June 14) observance each year by proclamation. • The American Flag was raised by 6 Marines on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. It is one of the most iconic photos ever taken of the US Flag and is now a monument at Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. • AND, when the World Trade towers were attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, the Flag from the World Trade towers survived and became the latest symbol of American sacrifice in service and determination to overcome loss. • Happy Flag Day, everyone, because the American Flag represents freedom and sacrifice not just for Americans but for everyone wherever in the world she flies. Fly her high and proud on June 14, and every day.