You’re A Grand Old Flag

6-18-2015 2-45-21 PMIt seems no one truly knows for certain who designed our nation’s first flag. It is thought to have been New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson, a patriot, lawyer, artist, and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Of course we have all heard of Betsy Ross, who is credited with sewing the first flag. While reading up on our nations “symbol of freedom” I ran across some interesting facts that are not well known.

• The United States is the only country in the world that has a national Pledge of Allegiance to its flag, a National Anthem that venerates its flag, a national song (John Philip Souza’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever”) that honors its flag, and a highly detailed federal law (the U.S. Flag Code) that sets out proper flag procedures.

• “Old Glory” was a pet name Captain William Driver gave his personal flag. While in Tennessee during the Civil War, Driver hid his flag in between the seams of a bed quilt. He only revealed “Old Glory” when Union soldiers captured Nashville.

• All state and federal flag desecration laws were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989. (I find this personally shocking!)

In celebration of the coming 4th of July holiday, we are happy to have once again with us a special United States Flag Display, which belongs to local historian Ron Pettus. The display will be here from June 22nd – July 3rd, 2015.

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In order to help his students make a connection to the past, Ron Pettus collected military memorabilia and American Flags. “I had this idea that I can make history a little more interesting by bringing in some items from the period that I was teaching about,” said Pettus. He chronicled the growth of the country through the designs of the flags.

He is most proud of one designed by an 11th grade student named Robert Heft, for a history class project. “He came up with this wild idea that he would create a flag with 50 stars,” said Pettus. “And he did that the night before his project was due, turned it in the next day and the teacher gave him a B-minus on it because he wasn’t impressed at all with it.” Pettus loves to tell how the teacher told Heft he would bump up his grade if Heft got the federal government to adopt his flag.

“To make a long story short, the United States adopted his 50-star design,” said Pettus. “Other people had introduced the same design, but his was turned in first.” Pettus says Heft’s teacher changed his B-minus to an A, and it’s the design of Old Glory we fly to this day. Pettus also has a Civil War flag with 34 stars, another flag with 38 stars and one with 48 stars. On this day, Pettus has a specific message he wants his display to communicate: “We owe so much to veterans that we can’t do enough to celebrate what they’ve done for us.” Mr. Pettus promises some new flags not seen in his previous collection.

In keeping with the Flag theme, Isom’s Orchard has decided that anyone who purchases a spot on the “Threads of Honor” flag quilt between June 27 and July 4 can use their receipt as a $5 coupon of their total purchase at the orchard during those dates. All you have to do is bring in the dated receipt.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum