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Monthly Archives: August 2016

  1. Why Being Patriotic Means So Much

    Orson Welles once said, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”

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    Such a truth exists in that statement, as it is only by choosing to connect with the people around us that we are able to experience a fulfilling existence. In America, that is done by expressing a deep affection for our country, by being patriotic.

    There are certain times, particularly when tragedy strikes, that we see people come together in support of America. It is during these times

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  2. Where to Find Some of the Most Famous American Flags

    Where to Find Some of the Most Famous American Flags

    With its 13 stripes and 50 stars, the red, white, and blue banner that serves as the flag of the United States is one of the world’s most recognizable symbols. It even has a slew of nicknames, including “Stars and Stripes,” “Old Glory,” and even simply “The Red, White, and Blue.” There have been many versions of the American flag over the years, but certain variations have a particular historical significance for United States citizens the world over.

    The stories of the most famous flags are preserved in museums throughout the United States, but where exactly are the flags? In some cases, they are kept alongside the stories that go with them, but in others they may not be where one might expect.

    The Betsy Ross Flag

    It is widely accepted that, in 1776, Betsy Ross sewed the first United States flag at the behest of none other than George Washington. The flag she designed featured 13 white stars arranged circularly over a square blue background and alternating red and white stripes. The following year, Ross’s flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. This day, June 14, 1777, was established Flag Day (origins of this day are heavily debatable, but that’s for another time).

    Where to Find This Flag

    Unfortunately, our nation’s first flag isn’t around anymore, but that doesn’t mean Betsy Ross’s involvement in designing it hasn’t been properly acknowledged. In fact, the headquarters for Flag Day are in the Betsy Ross House, located in Philadelphia, where she is believed to have sewn America’s inaugural flag. If you go there, you’ll be treated to a tour, complete with actors and backdrops of that time period.

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    The Star Spangled Banner

    Every American knows that “The Star Spangled Banner” is the United

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  3. How Many Flags Over Texas?

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    It’s a good question. Texas has been governed by six different nations over the course of its history, it has its own state flag, and there is the matter of Texas’s constitution allowing it to split four new states away from itself, which would all require new flags for themselves. We’ll get into that part of the problem later.

    First, let’s discuss the flags that have already flown over the state. Texas was originally settled by Europeans around 1685. The French established a colony called Fort Saint Louis, which they had originally meant to place on the Mississippi River. The colony only lasted a few years before collapsing, but its presence meant that the Spanish felt they had to reestablish their claim, having made landfall and a map a century and a half earlier, then largely ignoring it.

    The Spanish thus constructed missions in East Texas, which were routed by native resistance. They tried again after the French started settling southern Louisiana, establishing San Antonio in 1718 as the first civilian Spanish settlement in Texas.

    This gives us two of the famous “Six Flags Over Texas”: Spain (twice: 1519 – 1685, and then again from 1690 – 1821), and France (from 1685 – 1690). Which flags were they, though? Spain used several different flags during its exploration of the New World. One of the most commonly seen on “Six Flags” displays, since it was chosen by the Texas Centennial Exposition committee, is the Castile and Leon royal banner, consisting of two lions and two castles:

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    Nice, right? Unfortunately, Spain wasn’t using this flag during the period they were in Texas – it’s the banner used by Cortez during the conquering of Mexico. They mostly were using this one at the time:

    Which is fine, representing the House of Burgundy, except that nobody seems to recognize it as a Spanish flag anymore. The Texas Historical Commission proposed in 1996 that the Spanish flag from 1785 be used. It is supplanting the royal banner in displays as per the Historical Commission’s recommendation.

    The French flag is even less clear. There was no official national flag of France, at the time, and the flag carried by the leader of the colony is unclear. A few proposals were made, including one with three white or gold fleur-de-lis on a blue banner.

    Two down. Next is Mexico, which controlled the area from 1821 – 1836. Its flag was adopted in 1823 and is more or less the same today, barring some artistic variance:

    Nowadays you are more likely to see a stylized eagle in place of the realistic one depicted here. Very little controversy or confusion with this flag.

    Next, of course, the state of Texas itself. It has had two different official flags. The first is extremely straightforward - a yellow star on a blue banner. It only lasted from 1836 – 1839. It was then replaced with the current flagEveryone knows this one.

    The Confederate flag, flown over Texas between 1861 – 1865, brings us back to vagueness and confusion again. Their flag went through several changes during their existence, from the Stars and Bars, which was never actually officially adopted by the Confederacy, but nonetheless was used for two years; to the Stainless Banner.

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    The one most commonly seen in displays is the Stars and Bars; as mentioned, this was never legislatively adopted as an official flag, largely because it resembles the Stars and Stripes of the United States too strongly. This made it unsuitable as a war banner, to say the least.

    The Stars and Stripes, of course, is the flag of the previous (1845 – 1861) and next (1865 – present) nation to claim Texas: the United States of America.

    The design is well-known, as is its symbolism. The thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies, with the field of white stars on the blue canton representing the total number of current states.

    After the Civil War, the United States controlled Texas.

    This brings us to the point of how Texas actually entered the Union. On December 29, 1845, statehood was granted to Texas, with the proviso that it be a slave state. The Missouri Compromise, however, forbade slavery north of the 36-degree 30-minute northern latitude line, as well as west of Missouri. The new territory extended further in both directions. In order to overcome objections to the violation, Congress passed a joint resolution that allowed Texas to split itself into as many as five states.

    Technically, it allows Texas to split off up to four new states, and the remainder would retain the name and statehood of Texas, but that’s just wording. The idea with this compromise was that any new states would follow the Missouri Compromise rules according to location; new states above the restriction would automatically be free states, while any remaining in the area where slavery was still allowed would hold a popular vote to determine their slavery status.

    In 1850, with the admission of California to the United States as a free state, Southerners wanted to split off an additional slave state from Texas to balance it. Instead, Texas was given ten million dollars in exchange for ceding its territory north of the line and west of Missouri, which eventually became parts of Colorado and New Mexico. A few years later, the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and, thus, the question was settled for all time.

    Except that the Civil War happened, and, with its end, slavery was no longer allowed in any state, which meant that Texas’s ability to split into new states was unneeded. However, and this is the important part, it was never repealed. Technically, Texas can split off new states if it wants to do so.

    Ordinarily such a move would require an act of Congress, which is fine; Congress has been doing that sort of thing for a long time. If it wanted to split a state after its ratification, it only needs permission from the state’s legislation. That’s how the nation was built in the first place, after all.

    Land purchases were made, and then, after some time to let new settlers sort of eke out an idea of where to live and what to concern themselves with, Congress would divide them up into various states and those states would start concerning themselves with legislature and government. But it seems that Texas can do this without any permission from the federal government; indeed, without any input whatsoever.

    Related to this ability is the common belief that Texas can secede from the United States at any time; this statement is more plainly false. (See above note on the Civil War and how that is not allowed.) This seems to stem from Texas’s long history of independence and the fact that it entered the Union as a sovereign republic nation. However, it was not the first republic to join the Union, nor the last. In fact, the last republic to do so was a kingdom prior to that, and Hawaii has no legal right to secede, either.

    Back to the problem of the division, though. There is the issue of how to divide Texas: probably along county lines. Nate Silver came up with a method of dividing the state up into politically sound parts in 2009. He considered things like population density and demographics, to wind up with:

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    New Texas is where Austin, the current capital of Texas, is located. It would be the technical remainder of the previous state of Texas and thus retains the name. Trinity has Dallas and Fort Worth; Gulfland has Houston and Corpus Christi, and would rely largely on offshore oil drilling for its economy; Plainland and El Norte would each have only about two and a half million people. This would change the political balance of power of the United States, although perhaps not as much as some might think, especially given the divisions outlined above.

    So, all we need to know now is what each of our new states wants to have for its flag, right?

    Not quite. There are several other proposals for division that have been raised and denied in the past; any of these previous attempts would have an equal claim for their own flags as well. For example, the best-known effort was in the late 1860s, for a vertical division into East and West Texas, which was presented to Congress but not ratified. An attempt to break off the panhandle into the state of Jefferson was floated in 1915 but also went nowhere. It’s been tried several times, most recently in the 1990s.

    So, sure, on paper it looks like Texas has a unique ability to stymie Congress and suddenly add up to four stars to the flag. Can it, in fact, do that?

    Now we run into the legal ramifications of precedent and what that means for Texas. In order to see what the meaning of “state” is, we turn to the Supreme Court’s decision in Escanaba Company v. the City of Chicago [107 U.S. 678 (1883). In this case, Chicago was legislating when certain drawbridges could raise and lower, and the Escanaba Company determined that the schedule was inconvenient to them and their profits. So they sued. In the briefing, Justice Stephen Field acknowledged that states have

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  4. Top 8 Moments in the History of the American Flag

    There have been many unforgettable moments in our nation’s history, but there are a handful of moments specifically related to the American flag that really stand out. Some of these moments are simply fascinating historical happenings, while others represent significant events that helped shape the United States of America as a nation.

    With that in mind, let’s discuss a healthy dose of each type of moment and explore a little bit more about one of our nation’s greatest symbols.

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    Moment #1: The First Flag Is Sewn

    If you hear the name Betsy Ross, you may not immediately remember that she was the woman who sewed the very first Stars and Stripes American Flag. Historical accounts say that Ms. Ross, who was a sought-after seamstress from Philadelphia, was hired by George Washington himself to sew the initial American flag featuring the stars and stripes. Because of this, it’s fair to say that Betsy Ross’s name is truly sewn into the fabric of American history.

    Moment #2: 13 Stripes Are Here to Stay

    Originally, tradition dictated that a new stripe would be added every time a new state was admitted into the union. When five more states were added in 1818, this tradition came to a screeching halt. Congress passed legislation stating that 13 would be the fixed number of stripes on the flag, and, rather than continuing the stripe-adding tradition of recent years, a star would be added to represent each state.

    Moment #3: What’s in a Name?

    It may seem a strange custom to name a flag, but there is actually a rich history of doing just that. In 1831, Captain William Driver referred to the Stars and Stripes banner as “Old Glory.” It may be that Captain Driver felt a deep kinship to the flag because of its presence on so many of his ocean voyages over the years. Whatever the reason, the name stuck, and the American flag is known as “Old Glory” to this day.

    Moment #4: The Famous Photograph

    The Battle of San Juan Hill was a brutal battle that took place during the Spanish-American War in 1898. On the day of this battle, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt led his men to victory over Spanish forces, after which he and his “Rough Riders” raised an American flag and posed atop San Juan Hill for one of the most famous photos in our nation’s history.

    Moment #5: Raising the Flag Over Iwo-Jima

    If there is one photograph that comes to mind when you think of the American flag, it’s probably this one. Taken in 1945, “Raising the Flag Over Iwo-Jima” was so well-received that it actually won the Pulitzer Prize for photography.

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    Moment #6: The Half-Staff Proclamation

    On certain days of the year, you look around and see flags flying at half-staff. Few people realize that the half-staff flying of the flag at specific dates and times, including Memorial Day, Peace Officers Day, for 10 days following the death of a Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Supreme Court Chief Justice (active or retired), and for the 30 days following the death of the President or any former President is a necessary protocol.

    Moment #7: One Small Step for Man …

    When Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, he made a famous statement about how this accomplishment was “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Almost everyone remembers these words. What they also remember is the moment (or at least a picture of the moment) when Armstrong and fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin staked the American flag to the moon.

    Moment #8: After the Collapse of the World Trade Center

    When the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, Americans were devastated. Out of this darkness came a photograph of firefighters lifting the flag high above the ruins left behind. This picture painted an image of bravery and courage that served as a symbol of comfort and unity in the days, weeks, and months after the attack.

    In Conclusion

    There are so many moments in American history associated with the American flag, it’s difficult to narrow it down to just a few, let alone put them in any order. We remember these moments in time not only because of the significance of the events themselves, but because of what our flag represents to us as a nation and as individuals.

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  5. The Thirteen Colonies and Their Flags

    It may come as a surprise to many that the colonies didn’t become states until four years or more after the war ended. While our Independence was declared on July 2nd and the Declaration of Independence was accepted on July 4th of 1776, the war raged on until 1783. The colonies overthrew the governors and British Lords who ruled them, in 1776, and began their own governments.

    Not an easy task to do while fighting for your sovereignty! Understandably, it took a few years to have state constitutions and formally accept the Constitution of the United States as their governing principles. Going hand in hand with constitutions, each state had a date on which they were accepted into the union and their own unique flags with which they identified themselves.

    Let’s take a look at each one and how they came to represent the 13 states we know today.

    Delaware was named for the tribe and also an early governor of colonial Virginia, Lord de la Warr. Officially adopted on July 24, 1913, the Delaware state flag has a background of colonial blue surrounding a diamond of buff color in which the coat of arms of the state is placed.

    Below the diamond are the words "December 7, 1787," indicating the day on which Delaware was the first state to ratify the United States constitution. Because of this action, Delaware became the first state in the Union, and is, therefore, accorded the first position in such national events as presidential inaugurations.

    According to members of the original commission established to design the flag, the shades of buff and colonial blue represent those of the uniform of General George Washington. Inside the diamond, the flag recognizes the importance of commerce to the state, with the ship and agriculture depicted by wheat, corn, the ox, and the farmer. Tribute is also paid to the revolutionary war soldiers. The words in the ribbon banner read Liberty and Independence.

    The next state to enter the union was Pennsylvania, which occurred on December 12, 1787. Named for one of the founders of the colony, William Penn, and the Latin word “Sylvania” meaning “forest,” Pennsylvania's state flag is composed of a blue field on which is embroidered the State Coat of Arms. The first State Flag bearing the State Coat of Arms was authorized by the General Assembly in 1799. An act of the General Assembly on June 13, 1907 standardized the flag and required that the blue field match the blue of Old Glory.

    Named for the Isle of Jersey in England, New Jersey was the third state to join the United States on December 18, 1787. The state flag of New Jersey is buff colored. The state coat of arms is emblazoned in the center, the shield with three plows and a horse's head above it. The two women represent the goddesses of Liberty and Agriculture. A ribbon at the bottom includes the year of independence in 1776 and reads: “Liberty and Prosperity.” The New Jersey state flag was formally adopted in 1896.

    Georgia was the fourth state to become a part of the union on January 2, 1788. Named for King George II of England, their flag may look familiar, as it is similar to the flag of the Confederate States of America. The Georgia flag has three red and white stripes and the state coat of arms on a blue field in the upper left corner.

    Thirteen stars surrounding the seal denote Georgia's position as one of the original thirteen colonies. On the seal three pillars supporting an arch represent the three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive. A man with sword drawn is defending the Constitution, whose principles are wisdom, justice, and moderation. The date 1776 represents the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The flag was officially adopted on May 8th, 2003.

    Connecticut was named for the Algonquin word quinnehtukqutmeaning “by the long tidal river” and was founded by Thomas Hooker among others. They became part of the United States on February 6, 1788. On a field of azure blue is an ornamental white shield with three grapevines, each bearing three bunches of purple grapes.

    The state's motto "He who Transplanted Sustains Us" is displayed on a white ribbon. The vines stand for the first settlements of English people who began to move from Massachusetts to Connecticut in the 1630s. These settlements were thought of as grape vines that had been transplanted. The flag was adopted in 1897.

    Though founded in 1630 by John Winthrop and other Pilgrims, Massachusetts didn’t become a state until February 6, 1788, as the sixth state to join the union. On a white field is a blue shield emblazoned with the image of a Native American, Massachuset. He holds a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. The arrow is pointing downward, representing peace. The white star represents Massachusetts as one of the original thirteen states. Around the shield is a blue ribbon with the motto: "By the Sword We Seek Peace, but Peace Only Under Liberty." Above the shield is an arm and sword, representing the first part of the motto. Though the flag was adopted in 1915, it was amended in 1971.

    Named for Queen Henrietta Maria, Maryland joined the union on April 28, 1788. The Maryland flag contains the family crest of the Calvert and Crossland families. Maryland was founded as an English colony in 1634 by Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. The black and Gold designs belong to the Calvert family. The red and white design belongs to the Crossland family. The flag was finally made official in 1904.

    Settled by the English colonist, South Carolina was named for King Charles I, whose name in Latin is “Carolus.” Joining the United States on May 23, 1788 made South Carolina the 8th state in the union. Asked by the Revolutionary Council of Safety in the fall of 1775 to design a flag for the use of South Carolina troops, Col. William Moultrie chose a blue which matched the color of their uniforms and a crescent which reproduced the silver emblem worn on the front of their caps. The palmetto tree was added later to represent Moultrie's heroic defense of the palmetto-log fort on Sullivan's Island against the attack of the British fleet on June 28, 1776.

    John Wheelwright founded New Hampshire in 1638, and the state became the 9th to join the union on June 21, 1788. New Hampshire's state seal depicts the frigate USS Raleigh, and is surrounded by a laurel wreath with nine stars. The Raleigh is one of the first 13 warships sponsored by the Continental Congress for a new American navy, built in 1776 at Portsmouth. The seal is surrounded by a laurel wreath. The wreath is an ancient symbol of fame, honor, and victory. The nine stars within the wreath show that New Hampshire was the ninth state to join the Union. The water stands for the harbor of Portsmouth, and in the yellow-colored spit of land is granite, a strong igneous rock, representing both New Hampshire's rugged landscape and the sturdy character of her people.

    The first colony founded by John Smith in 1607 was Virginia, which became the 11th state to join the union on June 25, 1788. The state was named for the Virgin Queen of England, Elizabeth I. A deep blue field contains the seal of Virginia with the Latin motto "Sic Semper Tyrannis," which means "Thus Always to Tyrants." The flag was immediately adopted in 1776.

    The two figures are acting out the meaning of the motto. Both are dressed as warriors. The woman, Virtue, represents Virginia. The man holding a scourge and chain shows that he is a tyrant. His fallen crown is nearby, clearly a nod to the British monarchy.

    New York, named after the Duke of York, officially became a state on July 26, 1788. The state coat of arms is emblazoned on a dark blue field. The seal portrays the goddess Liberty holding a pole with a Liberty Cap on top, representing freedom. At her feet is a discarded crown, a symbol of the monarchy from England which no longer ruled the colonies at the end of the Revolutionary War.

    On the right is the goddess, Justice. She wears a blindfold and carries the scales of justice, meaning that everyone receives equal treatment under the law. The state motto "Excelsior" on a white ribbon expresses the idea of reaching upward to higher goals. On the shield a sun rises over the Hudson highlands as ships sail the Hudson River. Above the shield is an eagle resting on a globe representing the Western Hemisphere.

    North Carolina was settled by Virginia colonists looking to expand their settlements in 1653. Like its southern counterpart, it was named for King Charles I and became a state on November 21, 1789. The law states “That the flag of North Carolina shall consist of a blue union, containing in the center thereof a white star with the letter N in gilt on the left and the letter C in gilt on the right of said star, the circle containing the same to be one-third the width of the union.

    The fly of the flag shall consist of two equally proportioned bars; the upper bar to be red, the lower bar to be white; that the length of the bars horizontally shall be equal to the perpendicular length of the union, and the total length of the flag shall be one-third more than its width. That above the star in the center of the union there shall be a gilt scroll in semi-circular form, containing in black letters this inscription ‘May 20th, 1775,’ and that below the star there shall be a similar scroll containing in black letters the inscription: ‘April 12th, 1776.’” These dates represent the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the Halifax Resolves, respectively, making North Carolina one of the forerunners of American independence.

    Rhode Island was settled in 1636 by Roger Williams, who had been banned from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views. It was the first state to renounce the British crown, and the last to join the union on May 20, 1790, holding out until they were assured the Bill of Rights would be a part of the constitution.

    Placed on a white field is a circle of thirteen gold stars representing the first thirteen states. The stars surround a gold ship's anchor. The state's motto "Hope" is on a blue ribbon below the anchor. It is possibly named in honor of the Greek Island of Rhodes, or was named Roode Eylandt by Adriaen Block, Dutch explorer, because of its red clay.

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  6. The History of the Washington State Flag

    Which state flag features a deep green background and is the only one to have a picture of a person (think Founding Fathers)? If the title of this article didn’t already give it away, you were still probably able to guess that the answer is Washington. One of the most distinctive flags in the United States, the Washington State flag is easy to remember once you’ve seen it.

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    Washington became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889, but it wasn’t until March 5, 1923 that their state flag became official. The Washington

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  7. A Rattlesnake on the American Flag Instead of an Eagle?

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    Was our country’s national symbol almost a poisonous reptile rather than the eagle we’ve all come to know and love? If Benjamin Franklin had his way, this may very well have been the case. In fact, Franklin didn’t even like the eagle, so much so that he believed the majestic bird of prey was “a bird of poor moral character.” The rattlesnake, on the other hand, was a fierce, but honorable creature, never attacking unless provoked and never surrendering unless a fight was over. 

    An Early Symbol

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