Here is a bit of flag trivia for your weekend enjoyment! A collection of stars and stripes can be found on our flag….but not just any pattern of stars and stripes will do! Title 4 Chapter 1 Section 1 of the United States Code specifies: “The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field.” Why only 48 stars? Because when the code was originally written in 1947, there were only 48 states! Section 2 of the same chapter goes on add a new star to the flag on the fourth day of July after a new State is admitted into the Union. A 50 star American flag was first flown on July 4, 1960 after Hawaii became our fiftieth state.
Looking for another tidbit of trivia? Our current flag, complete with 50 stars, was designed as part of a class project by Robert G. Heft. Heft originally was given a “B-“ on his project. Undaunted, Heft spoke to his teacher about the grade. His instructor, Stanley Pratt, agreed to raise the grade to an “A”, if his proposed design was adopted by the Congress. Most teens would lose hope, but not Heft. More than 1500 50 star designs were submitted to President Eisenhower, and at least three of them were the same as the one submitted by Mr. Heft. However, luck was on Heft’s side. His design was, indeed, selected by Congress, and Mr. Pratt raised his grade. His positive point-of-view continued throughout Heft’s life. After retiring from his position as a college professor, Heft became a motivational speaker and was a member of the Harvey Spaulding Toastmasters Club in Saginaw, Michigan.
I can’t resist adding in one more interesting piece of information. The flag which actually flew over Fort McHenry on September, 12, 1814, and served as the basis for our national anthem, is a bit shorter than when it was originally sewn. The flag that was originally 30 by 42 feet in length is now on display at the National Museum of American History. It currently measures only 34 feet in length. The question is: what happened to the missing 8 feet? Was part of it destroyed during the battle? No, pieces of it have been given away! The flag was commissioned by George Armistead who was in command of Fort McHenry. Armistead paid Mary Young Pickersgill slightly more than $400 to sew a flag “so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.” After the war, his family came into possession of the flag and gifted pieces of it to others. In fact, one of those pieces was sold at an auction in 2011 for $38,837!
If you haven’t had a chance, please take a look at my youtube video that celebrates our flag at: http://youtu.be/cKA0r-JyC_U
Please take a moment to consider how fortunate we are to live in this fascinating country. We have a rich history that is filled with amazing stories. Learning more about our history, and teaching it to our children, is definitely What IS Right With America!
Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.