joy magnetism: Long may she wave

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Long may she wave

Magnet #478 - Fort McHenry, Baltimore, MD

Ya'll know I have a thing for visiting national parks, and historic places. A couple of months ago we visited Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, MD. It was always one of those placesigns along I-95 that you just drive past on your way north or south, and you just never stop. This time we did.

Here's the thing. You grow up with the national anthem, the American flag (and apple pie, I suppose), but you don't necessarily think about from whence they came. So to see the flag flying, and to stand in the very fort where the star-spangled banner waved, and to walk o'er the ramparts, is something pretty cool.

That same weekend, we also went to the newly renovated Smithsonian National Museum of American History in DC, where we could see the same flag from the song. And you think Fort McHenry was cool, seeing the actual flag itself is even more awesome.

Both places gives you more historical context more than any history book ever could - so it's highly recommended.

The flag itself and the journey it's been on since the War of 1812 is quite extraordinary. You can learn more about it through the Smithsonian's fabulous interactive demo - definitely check it out. I love this magnet because it really shows a couple of details that I find fascinating. Heh, so fascinating that I totally did their little quiz thingy and got this cute certificate.

The original flag was about 30 x 42-feet - which is insanely large. At the time that Mary Pickersgill sewed it, there were 15 stars on the canton (the field of blue on the flag), and it's the only time there were 15 stripes - one for Kentucky and one for Vermont just admitted to the Union. (Of course, they had to stop the extending the flags by the stripes, because they realized that the flag would become too cumbersome if they kept adding stripes. Really, imagine the flag with 50 stripes?)

After the War of 1812, the flag remained in the possession of the Armistead family (the husband was fort commander)...and over time, they would give away pieces of the flag as souvenirs or remembrances to people. That's why there's a star (the white halo'd one on the magnet) and about 8 feet of flag missing. You'll also see what they believe is a little red A sewn into a white stripe - sewn onto the flag by Louisa Armistead, the commander's widow.

Still, if there's one thing I love about this country, it's our recognized need to preserve our relatively short history. And this flag is no exception - the Preservation Project shows how workers have toiled painstakingly to help this national treasure survive.

You think you tear up now, when you hear the below words being sung? I promise, the below words will take on so much more meaning once you've visited both Fort McHenry and the Star-Spangled Banner in DC. Happy Flag Day!

O! say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

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1 comment:

The Geek said...

It's always funny looking through those actual, original lyrics... I still remember the phonetic words I THOUGHT were correct when I was little and first learning it. :)