Wednesday, June 14, 2017

On Flag Day 2017: You're A Grand Old Flag

Today is Flag Day, a day for commemorating the adoption of  a design by Francis Hopkinson as the official Flag of the United States on this date in 1777.

Francis Hopkinson Flag                                                                                    1777

Here are some words about the Hopkinson flag from the link above:

Hopkinson is recognized as the designer of the official "first flag" of the United States. Although he sought compensation from Congress, the letter was somewhat comical. He asked for a quarter cask of wine in payment for the flag, the Great Seal, and various other contributions. Congress used the usual bureaucratic tactics of asking for an itemized bill. After some back and forth, Congress eventually refused on the pretext that Hopkinson was already paid as a public servant. The letter also mentioned that Hopkinson collaborated with others on his designs because he was one of many contributing to the Great Seal. [6][7]
While there is no known Hopkinson flag in existence today, we do know from his rough sketch that it had thirteen stars and thirteen stripes. It is believed that his flag used red and white stripes and white stars on a field of blue. Because the original stars used in the Great Seal had six points, we might also assume that Hopkinson's flag intended the use of a 6-pointed star. This is bolstered by his original sketch that showed asterisks with six points.
The legend of Betsy Ross as the designer of the first flag entered into American consciousness about the time of the 1876 centennial celebrations. See Betsy Ross Flag. This flag with its circle of 13 stars came into popular use as a flag commemorating our nation's birth. Many Americans today still cling to the Betsy Ross legend that she designed the flag and most are unaware of Hopkinson's legacy.

There are any number of song written about our national flag. Among the best of them is George M. Cohan's 1906 rouser, "Your A Grand Old Flag," written in 1906 for his musical, George Washington, Jr. It's performed by Billy Murray, a leading American entertainer in the first decades of the century.


Photos and Illustrations:
Hopkinson Flag, public domain image,

Francis Hopkinson, entry,
"You're A Grand Old Flag," entry,

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