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Monthly Archives: July 2016

  1. The Revolutionary War Depicted in Flags

    The birth of our nation occurred at a tumultuous time, amid battles, cannons, and a fight for freedom. Flags became a part of the scene to unite, inspire, and rally the colonists to win the war against the British so that all those living here in America could do so without tyranny or taxation without representation. To have a better understanding of the Revolutionary War, and the role flags played in the unification of our country, we will be taking a look at the flags that have enriched our history with their own unique stories.
    Cartoon turned flag, the Join or Die flag was a rallying standard which Benjamin Franklin originally created on wood in order to spur the colonies to unite. First used during the French and Indian War, then as a symbol of freedom in the Revolutionary War, this flag represented the thirteen colonies with a snake cut into eight pieces. The head of the snake symbolized the whole of New England, followed by New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Franklin knew that the dream of a free nation would not survive unless the colonies united, much like a snake cut into pieces would surely die.
    In keeping with the rattlesnake theme, the Gadsden flag was the first flag of the U.S. Marine Corps, commissioned in 1775. Depicting a rattlesnake with thirteen coils and the motto “Don't tread on me,”it served as a warning to the British that America was not to be taken lightly or trivialized. In December of 1775, a letter was written by “An American Guesser” who historians now agree was Benjamin Franklin, and it was published
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  2. Flags of… Antarctica?

    In the land of penguins and orca, with a population of 135 permanent residents, Antarctica is a unique place on Earth. There is no official flag of Antarctica since it is not a country nor governed by any authority.

    However, there is a caveat to that as Antarctica is a de facto condominium, governed by parties to the Antarctic Treaty System that have consulting status. Twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, and thirty-eight have signed it since then. The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, prohibits nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal, supports scientific research, and protects the continent's ecozone. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists from many nations, primarily in its summertime.

    Seven countries lay claim to a part of Antarctica, known as “territories,” which basically allows a country to do experiments provided they follow the regulations of the Antarctic Treaty System. Britain holds the British Antarctic Territory (yes, such an original name!) and New Zealand holds the Ross Dependency. France claims Adelie Land, named for the penguins there. Norway holds Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land. Australia, Chile, and Argentina also have stakes in the land of Antarctica.

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    In 2002, a flag was approved by the Antarctic Treaty Organization and is being used as an informal ensign of the continent. Many other designs for the flag have been suggested and are currently under consideration. The designs suggested by Whitney Smith and Graham Bartram are the most eminent designs.

    The Graham Bartram design uses the flag of the United Nations as its base pattern. It is a simple white map of Antarctica on a blue setting. The map essentially represents the continent's nonaligned status.

    The Graham Bertram Flag was first hoisted on the continent in 2002. When he planned the ensign, Bertram was cognizant of the converging territorial demands of Chile, the United Kingdom, and Argentina. This version is probably the most famous design for the continent, proven by its wide presence on the web.

    On the other hand, the Whitney Smith design applies the

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  3. The Bear on the California State Flag

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    The California state flag is something of an oddity even among the peculiar field of its fellows. It’s not the only one with a star; not even the only one with a single star. It’s not the only one with an animal: Several other states feature an eagle or two on their flags; Michigan has a pair of deer flanking its seal, Pennsylvania has a pair of horses, Missouri has a pair of bears itself. But that’s clearly symbolism derived from heraldry, and therefore those flags can get away with it by a simple nod to historical precedent. It’s not even that it doesn’t have any blue in it; neither do those of New Mexico, Alabama, nor Maryland, and they seem to be fine with it.

    No, the California state flag has a whopping big bear taking up most of its face, meandering toward a single star in the upper hoist side, striding over a red stripe on the bottom of the flag. It’s definitely a bold choice. The only other flags that approach it are probably the Wyoming flag, with an outlined bison containing the state seal, and the Oregon flag, with a single large beaver sitting quietly on the obverse side, and even those are stylized, clearly harmless, and representative beasts, not looking for trouble. Not so the California bear.

    In 1846, California was a Mexican territory, and there was the threat that Mexico and the United States of America were going to go to war. A group of settlers in the area decided that if it came to that, they were going to go with America. In fact, they decided not to wait, and went ahead and seized the city of Sonoma themselves.

    Of course, they needed a flag to represent the new Republic of California, so they asked one of the settlers, one William “I’m Abraham Lincoln’s Wife’s Nephew” Todd to design it. He took a scrap of brown cloth and some brownish

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  4. The European Union Flag

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    Technically, it’s not a flag.

    It sure looks like one, doesn’t it? Well, it’s actually an emblem, suitable for displaying on a rectangular piece of cloth, according to the designer. So … that sounds like one, too, doesn’t it? Yes, except that the various members of the European Union were always concerned about losing their individual identities as nations and having their flags replaced. Which seems, honestly, exactly like what a union of member states ought to be doing, right? But in order to assuage such fears, the emblem is referred to as something that specifically is not a flag, so that can’t happen now.

    Except that it pretty much has, even if

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  5. Declaring Our Independence

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    Did you know that a majority of the colonists felt that declaring independence from the British was a radical idea? Men like Jefferson, Franklin, and the rest of our forefathers were considered radical thinkers for their vision of a free, independent United States of America. So, how did the political climate change to the point men and women picked up arms against the red coats?

    First, it is important to understand how the American colonies came to be in the first place. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Britain

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  6. Fourth of July: What Were the Actual Events of That Fateful Day?

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    The events leading up to July 4, 1776 are well documented in U.S. history books and historical documents, and almost every American will tell you that we became a free nation on the Fourth. Technically, that's not entirely true.

    The British imposed the Tea Act of 1773, which set everything in motion. Up to that point, the settlers who had come to America were impartial to the rule of their prior homeland. Essentially, the Tea Act was an effort to save the East India Company by lowering their tax rate and giving them a monopoly on the tea trade in the Americas.

    Outraged, the colonists revolted by tossing eighteen thousand pounds of tea into Boston Harbor, known as the Boston Tea Party. This angered the British so much they put Boston under military rule. So, not only did they try to enforce tax tyranny, but punished the colonists by closing the city to merchants.

    Imagine what our history would look like had the British not drawn up the Tea Act?

    Of course, this led to the fateful day of April 19, 1775 when the first shots were fired on the Lexington green. Thus began the Revolutionary War in which the colonists fought for their freedom. They wanted freedom from tyranny and religious persecution, with a burning desire to lead a life in which one could pursue happiness in whatever manner they deemed fit.

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    After fighting for fourteen months, the Continental Congress declared independence on July 2, 1776. Yes, you read that right: July 2nd, not the 4th. Some think the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, when in fact it was signed on August 2nd. Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft in June of 1776.

    So,

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  7. History of the Union Jack

    Union_flag_1606_(Kings_Colors).svgFor a small set of islands of the Northwest coast of Europe, with a total landmass not much greater than that of Utah, the peoples of the United Kingdom have had a profound impact on the history of the modern world. In the 19th century it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire, as its reach spread vastly overseas with conquests and colonies spanning the globe. It would not be a stretch to say then that during this time the flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack, was the most recognizable flag in the world.

    The Union Jack, though, has its own history, and has undergone a series of evolutions that mirror the history and evolution – often contentious, always fascinating – of

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  8. Join or Die: The Flag That United the Colonial Settlers

    1280px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_DieBefore the American Revolution, the political temperature throughout the world was shaky all around. France and Britain were in competition to be the most powerful nation in the world, the American Colonies were still settling into their new homelands, deciding if they should expand west or finally organize a revolution to throw off British rule.

    The French claimed the entire Mississippi basin extending from the Gulf of Mexico into Canada. Britain and France had long debated over the borders of their territories in the Americas. Austria changed allegiances, Prussia was backing Britain ... everything was changing.

    At the same time, Benjamin Franklin was

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