Comprehensive, dispassionate chronicle of the potent banner that stirs up passions of every stripe.
Leepson (Saving Monticello, 2001) compiles the curious history of Old Glory and the special veneration it often evokes. Few readers will be shocked by his revelation that the legend of Betsy Ross and her little shop may not be entirely factual. We’re reminded that in early American history the flag was used principally as a military or naval ensign and rarely flown by individual citizens. It is within living memory that Flag Day, the Flag Code, the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance received official recognition. After the strife of the Civil War, the Confederate Stars and Bars battle flag became part of history, along with the yarn about old Barbara Frietschie, and in efforts to display national unity the Stars and Stripes appeared all over, becoming a part of everyday commercial and political battles. The Union veterans’ organization promoted display of the Red, White and Blue in every schoolroom. The flag achieves apotheosis in wartime, and such times have always been banner years for manufacturers of the country’s symbol. The image of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima remains a national icon, and the colors have been proudly planted at the North Pole and on the Moon. But there have been periods when the flag was not saluted with pride by all, for example, during the discord over the Vietnam War. A mighty resurgence of popular display followed 9/11, when flags became ubiquitous in every medium and on every surface, from lapel to football field. Despite Flag Code strictures and the rules of flag etiquette, the Grand Old Flag is displayed day and night at used car lots, behind star performers and on varied consumer products—including politicians of every stripe.
Unflaggingly straightforward vexillary law, lore and legend, agreeably presented. (25 b&w photos)