Oh Say, Did You Know?

When The Communicator told me… yes, that’s her title… anyway, when Emily told me that it was time for me to write another Blog, I didn’t jump and down for joy (laughing)!

“I just wrote one,” I whined.

“That was in April,” she laughed.

Sigh…Groan… “But I don’t know what to say,” I tried again.

Still laughing, she replied, “No, that’s the name of your Blog, not the subject of your next post!”

Fine!” I huffed, “I’ll try to think of something.”

Always on her game, The Communicator said, “It’s July, Independence Day. Write about that!”

Eventually, after much procrastination, my brain finally started spinning. What do we really know about the US Independence Day, The US Flag, and the US National Anthem? Sure, we’ve all heard the stories about Betsy Ross sewing a flag for General Washington, or Francis Scott Keys writing the Star Spangled Banner, or even that the Declaration of Independence was written on July 2, 1776. But do we really know how it all happened? I was a woman on a mission… I had a puzzle to put together!

Let’s start at the beginning, with Independence Day!

Did you Know That…

  • Although we celebrate July 4th as Independence Day, the legal Declaration of Independence happened on July 2, 1776 when the Second Continental Congress voted to declare the United States independent from Great Britain?
  • The Declaration of Independence wasn’t actually signed until August 2, 1776?
  • Declaration signers and Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as well as Founding Father and President James Monroe all died on July 4th in different years? Adams and Jefferson in 1826 and Monroe in 1831.
  • The only US President born on July 4th is Calvin Coolidge in 1872?
  • That Independence Day wasn’t a paid federal holiday until 1938 and that it has become one of the busiest US travel periods?
  • The Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island is the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the US?
  • In 2009, the City of New York had the largest fireworks display in the country and fired off more than 22 tons in their display over the East River?
  • People in the Philippines commemorate their independence from the US in 1946 by celebrating on July 4th?
  • In Rwanda, the official holiday, “Liberation Day” is celebrated on July 4th to commemorate the end of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide?

So, if you want to be an Independent Sprit and confuse a whole lot of people, you could always celebrate on July or August 2nd and technically, you’d be right. Of course, you might get some strange looks if you had a parade!

Once the fledgling Nation had it’s independence, it was time to consider a flag. Not just any flag, it had to signify that a new Nation had been established… in addition to the 567 Nations that already existed among the 6 million indigenous peoples who greeted them when they arrived… but that’s another Blog!

Did You Know That…

  • The first flag used during the Revolution against Britan was on December 3, 1775, on the colonial warship Alfred, in the Delaware River at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and used thirteen horizontal stripes alternating red and white and had the British Union Flag in the canton?
  • The US flag has been officially modified 26 times since 1777?
  • It wasn’t until June 14, 1777, that the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution, which established the format for our current flag with thirteen red and white stripes, and thirteen white stars on a blue field, representing the thirteen states?
  • The first US flag flown during battle was on August 3, 1777, at Fort Schuyler in what is now the Bronx New York and that soldiers cut up clothing to make it?
  • Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey designed the 1777 flag and asked for a “quarter cask of the public wine” as payment… which he was denied because he was serving as the Chairman of the Navy Board (Secretary of the Navy in today’s terms)?
  • Until 1818, when the decision was made to keep the number of stripes at 13 for the original colonies, both an additional star and stripe were added with the entry of states into the Union?
  • It wasn’t until 1912, that there was an official arrangement of the stars on the flag and you can still find many different versions from before that time?
  • You aren’t supposed to use the flag for advertising purpose, on articles or objects, or on garments, athletic uniforms, or costumes but that it’s not widely enforced?
  • The first US postage stamp that used the flag by itself was issued on July 4, 1957, the year I was born?

Next time someone tells you that the US flag was designed and made by Betsy Ross, you can tell them that it was actually Francis Hopkinson and that he asked for wine as a payment! Bet that will get you some strange looks also, especially if you are marching in a parade on August 2nd!

Finally, the US established a National Anthem 155 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. Before that, many songs were used as “anthems” for the US, including Hail ColumbiaMy Country ‘Tis of Thee, and America the Beautiful. Even today’s Star-Spangled Banner has had an interesting and varied history since it’s creation in 1814!

Did You Know That…

  • The title of the poem that Fancis Scott Key actually wrote is Defence of Fort M’Henry?
  • Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, brother-in-law to Key, is the one who identified the melody and that it comes from English composer John Stafford Smith who wrote The Anacreontic Song for the Anacreontic Society, amateur musicians in 18th-century London?
  • The first public performance of Defence of Fort M’Henry was in Baltimore at Captain McCauley’s tavern by Ferdinand Durang in October 1814?
  • Because there were so many melody versions, President Woodrow Wilson asked the US Bureau of Education to provide an “official” one and the five musicians who scored the arrangement performed it at Carnegie Hall on December 5, 1917?
  • The US Navy first officially adopted The Star-Spangled Banner and that it wasn’t until 1916 that is was ordered played at military and other occasions?
  • The first time The Star-Spangled Banner was played at a sporting event was during the seventh-inning stretch during Game One of the 1918 World Series and the first Pop Music performance was by Jose’ Feliciano at the 1968 World Series?
  • Attempts were made from 1918 until 1931 to get The Star-Spangled Banner adopted by Congress and a bill signed by the President to designate it as the national anthem?
  • There was no prescription about behavior during the playing of the national anthem until June 1942, which required those in uniform to salute and others to stand at attention with men removing hats and women placing hands over hearts?
  • Between the first guidelines in 1942 until the most recent in 2008, the code of conduct during the playing of the national anthem has changed four times, so it makes sense that so many people do different things?

Whether you sing Defence of Fort M’Henry or The Star-Spangled Banner you’re singing the same song. Also, because Congress has never passed a law to enforce the code of behavior during the performance, everyone usually does whatever he or she was taught in elementary school during the National Anthem, and that’s okay by me.

So there you have it, all the information you didn’t know that you didn’t know about the establishment of US as we know it today, the flag of the Nation, and the National Anthem! I had fun doing the research and learned things I never knew about the traditions most US citizens celebrate on July 4th.

When I gave it to The Communicator, she smiled and said, “Your next one is due in December.”

Sheesh, some people are never satisfied!!!

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