Posts Tagged ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’

Today is Flag Day, and in recognition of that designation I took some of the photos I’ve taken during my lunchtime bike rides, 76 of them, in fact, and set them to music to make the above slideshow.

In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.  But the first Flag Day was not celebrated for another 108 years. until in 1885 a 19-year-old school teacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin, named Bernard J. Cigrand placed a 38-inch star flag in a bottle on his desk to observe the “flag birthday,” and gave his students an assignment to write essays about the flag and its significance.  After that, Cigrand enthusiastically advocated for several years in numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses the observance of June 14 as “Flag Birthday”, or “Flag Day”.  For his efforts, Cigrand generally is credited with being the “Father of Flag Day.”

It took another 31 years, until 1916, for President Woodrow Wilson to issue a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day.  Finally, in August 1946, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.  Flag Day is still not an official Federal holiday, however.  Neither is it a state holiday outside of Pennsylvania and New York. Furthermore, New York’s official observance of Flag Day isn’t June 14, but rather the second Sunday in June.

Since its inception there have been 27 official versions what many fondly call the “Stars and Stripes” , starting with the first one in 1777 which displayed 13 stripes and 13 stars (for the 13 original colonies). When Kentucky and Vermont joined the union, the flag took on two more stars, so that from 1795 to 1818, 15 stripes and 15 stars graced the flag. It was this version of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose “The Star-Spangled Banner,” during the battle at Fort McHenry.  For a while, the U.S. added stripes and stars to the flag when welcoming new states. At one point, the flag has 15 stripes and 15 stars. But n 1818, as the country continued to add new states, lawmakers, anticipating a crowded field of stripes, decided to honor each new state with a star, and leave the stripes at 13. Today the flag has 50 stars for the 50 states, and the designated 13 stripes.

There are Federal regulations governing the handling and display of the flag, referred to as the U.S. Flag Code, including restrictions on using the flag’s likeness for advertising, or printing it on anything intended “for temporary use or discard,” like cocktail napkins or paper plates. Under the Flag Protection Act of 1989, there are also Federal laws that call for criminal penalties for certain forms of flag desecration, although the Supreme Court found this act to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment in 1990.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of surprising and interesting facts surrounding the Stars and Stripes. And many of those facts are not found in history books. The following are some examples.

  • A 17-year old student named Robert G. Heft designed the flag as it currently appears today as part of a project for his history class.  He received a grade of B- for the project. He later submitted it to Congress for consideration, and in August of 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Heft’s design over 1,500 other applicants. His teacher subsequently changed his grade to an A.
  • According to the U.S. Department of State, the names of the flag’s official colors are “old glory red,” “white,” and “old glory blue.” “White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief, signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
  • Old Glory was actually the nickname of a specific U.S. Flag, namely, the one owned by sea captain William Driver. He was previously given the flag by the women in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, but he only named it Old Glory upon seeing it flying on his ship’s mast in 1831. The name later went on to become synonymous with any American flag.
  • In July 1969, Neil Armstrong placed the first American flag on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned landing. Five more Apollo moon landings—from missions 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17—resulted in five more flags being planted on the lunar surface. Despite the harsh temperatures and conditions of the moon’s atmosphere, five of the six flags that were planted during the Apollo missions are still standing. According to Buzz Aldrin, the one that fell was blown over by the exhaust from Apollo 11 during its liftoff from the moon’s surface.
  • Richard Williams, the animation director for the movie entitled “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” said that he modeled the title character’s colors after the American flag. Roger Rabbit dons red overalls, has white fur, and wears a blue tie. “It looked like an American flag — subliminally speaking — so everybody liked it,” stated Williams.
  • Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications revealed that Walmart stores sold around 115,000 American flags on September 11, 2001, as compared to 6,400 flags on the same date in 2000. In the year following 9/11 (September 11, 2001, through August 19, 2011), they sold 7.8 million American flags as compared to 2.5 million the year before.
  • During the opening sequence, at about 22 seconds in, of first-season episodes of “Gilligan’s Island,” the U.S. Flag can be seen flying at half-staff off in the distance. According to a 1994 audio book co-authored by Russell Johnson, who played the Professor, this is because the show’s pilot episode finished filming on November 22, 1963 — the same day President Kennedy was assassinated.
  • Lastly and most assuredly bigly, our current President, Donald Trump, was born on Flag Day in 1946.
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John Philip Sousa's Birthplace

John Philip Sousa’s Birthplace

On this bike ride I went by some of the places in D.C. that have a connection to “The American March King”, John Philip Sousa.  Because the bandmaster and composer was born in D.C., spent much of his career here, and eventually was buried in D.C., there are many connections between him and the national capitol city.

John Philip Sousa was born to Maria Elisabeth Trinkhaus, a Bavarian immigrant, and John Antonio Sousa, a Spanish immigrant of Portuguese descent.  His parents moved to D.C. in 1854 where his father became a trombonist with the U.S. Marine Band. John Philip Sousa was born later that year, on November 6th.  At one point in time Sousa aspired to be a baker, but a career in music was almost inevitable.  Besides having a father who was a musician, Sousa started his music education by playing the violin as a pupil of John Esputa and George Felix Benkert for harmony and musical composition at the age of six. He was found to have absolute pitch. During his childhood, Sousa studied voice, violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone horn, trombone and alto horn.

His early education and training would serve him well throughout the rest of his life.  Sousa was enlisted at the age of 13 by his father as an aprectice in the Marine Corps in order to prevent him from running away and joining a circus band.  He stayed in the Marine Corps for seven years, but at the age of 20, Sousa received a special discharge from the Marines and embarked on a career as a professional musician.  He toured with two companies and a vaudeville show, worked at two Philadelphia theaters, taught music, composed operettas, and even corrected proofs at a publishing company.  In 1879, Sousa conducted Gilbert and Sullivan’s immensely popular H.M.S. Pinafore. Under his masterful orchestration, the amateur company at his command was able to turn professional.  Its success led to a season on Broadway where famous composers took in Sousa’s production.

Word of the young music director’s accomplishments did not escape the attention of his former employer; and in 1880, the 25-year-old Sousa returned to the U.S. Marine Band when he was named its 14th leader.  He remained as its conductor for the next dozen years.  Sousa led “The President’s Own” band under five presidents from Rutherford B. Hayes to Benjamin Harrison, and played at two Inaugural Balls, those of James A. Garfield in 1881, and Benjamin Harrison in 1889.  He left the Marine Corps again the following year.

After leaving the military, Sousa organized and started his own band in 1892 , named The Sousa Band.  He and his band spent the next 39 years touring and playing concerts in America and around the world.  It was during this time that Sousa composed the vast majority of works in his voluminous musical portfolio, which included 136 marches, such as:  “The Washington Post,” for the celebrated newspaper of the same name; “Semper Fidelis”, the official march of the United States Marine Corps, and; “Stars and Stripes Forever”, officially designated by an act of Congress as the national march of the United States.  It was also during this period, in 1917, that Sousa became the leader of the U.S. Navy Band and directed concerts to raise money for World War I.  The Sousa Band performed at 15,623 concerts, including at the World Exposition in Paris, at which time the Sousa Band marched through the streets to the Arc de Triomphe – one of only eight parades the band marched in over its nearly forty years.

Interestingly, Sousa held a very low opinion of the emerging and upstart recording industry. Using an epithet coined by Mark Twain, he derided recordings as “canned” music.  In fact, Sousa’s antipathy to recording was so strong that he almost never conducted his band when it was being recorded.

For the first stop on my bike ride I went by the house, located at 636 G Street (MAP), in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Southeast D.C., where Sousa was born.  Over the years the house has gone through a number of private owners. It was most recently purchased in 2008 by Gunnery Sergeant Regino Madrid, a violinist with “The President’s Own.” Founded in 1798 by an Act of Congress, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. Today, “The President’s Own” is celebrated for its role at the White House and its dynamic public performances. “The President’s Own” encompasses the United States Marine Band, Marine Chamber Orchestra, and Marine Chamber Ensembles, and performs regularly at the White House and at more than 500 public performances across the nation each year.

On this bike ride I also road over and back across The John Philip Sousa Bridge, which carries Pennsylvania Avenue across the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C. (MAP).  It has partial interchanges with unsigned Interstate 695 at its western terminus and with District of Columbia Route 295 at its eastern terminus. The first bridge at that location was built in 1804.  Later, it was replaced by an iron, underslung truss bridge on masonry piers which was built between 1887 and 1890. The same masonry piers were used in the construction of the present bridge, which was named after Sousa in 1939, and completed in 1940.

Lastly, I stopped by Sousa’s final resting place at Historic Congressional Cemetery, located at 1801 E Street (MAP), which is also in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Southeast D.C.  Sousa’s gravestone is inscribed with a fragmant of his greatest march, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and is located within a family plot that includes graves for his wife and three children.   Although he lived a full life and had enjoyed an incredibly successful career that took him all over the world, his gravesite is located within sight of the bridge named in his honor, and just a mere mile away from the house where he was born.

Sousa05a     Sousa05a     Sousa01a

Sousa3     Sousa4
[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]