Red, White & Blue Festival Flag Trivia

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

This is the 41st time Crothersville has produced what is has become  “Indiana’s Most Patriotic Festival”. But let’s see if there are some little known or forgotten flag facts you may want to share.

•By 1777, the U.S. was still waffling on the exact look of its flag. This was a cause for concern for Thomas Green, an American Indian who wanted the protection of an official flag while traveling through treacherous territory to Philadelphia. Green asked for help from Congress. Within 10 days a resolution was passed, finalizing the flag as a creation with 13 stars and 13 stripes. The date: June 14th, 1777 became known as Flag Day and was the reason the second weekend in June was selected for the Red, White & Blue Festival. (Today’s Congress should learn a lesson from the speed of that early action.)

•Betsy Who? She may have sewn quite a few in her day, but there is no actual evidence that Betsy Ross was the person responsible for the design of the US Flag. In fact, Betsy’s name didn’t even come up in conjunction with the deed until 1876, forty years after her death. There also seems to be dispute as to whether Betsy Ross even lived in Philadelphia’s popular Betsy Ross House.

•The flag has 13 stripes…except when it didn’t. Upon welcoming Vermont and Kentucky—states 14 and 15—into the union, a new version of the flag was created that had 15 stars and 15 stripes. As the U.S. continued to add new states, there was concern about having to continually add additional stripes. The solution: revert to 13 to represent the original 13 colonies, and let the states be the stars.

•The current day 50-star pattern was created by a high school student. When Alaska and Hawaii became states 49 and 50, President Eisenhower received thousands of ideas for an updated flag. Almost all of them were of a 50-star flag, including one from Robert G. Heft, a 17-year-old student at Lancaster (Ohio) High, who created the design for a class project. He was one of three to submit the version that was accepted and remains in use today. Robert got a B- on his project.

•The 50-star flag is the first one to have lasted 50 years. In contrast, over a 50-year period in the early 1800s, the flag went through 17 different versions.

•The actual flag that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner” still exists. The flag that flew at Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812, immortalized in Francis Scott Key’s tune, is one of the few remaining specimens of a 15-star, 15-bar flag. What’s left of it is on permanent display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

•A flag desecration amendment failed in 2006. The proposed constitutional amendment would have prohibited not only burning the flag (for political reasons) but printing it on disposable items such as t-shirts or napkins. The amendment fell one vote short in the Senate. Look around the festival for flag adorned wearing apparel that could have been a violation of the constitution had it not been for a single senator.

•Even if it had passed, burning the flag is A-OK… as long as it’s already damaged beyond repair. It’s one way that the flag may be disposed of in a “dignified manner,” according to the U.S. Flag Code. Then again, if the U.S. Flag Code got its way, the stars and stripes wouldn’t appear in advertising either. Another potential festival ‘oopsie’ averted.

•What’s the farthest away the flag has been from the U.S.? The moon. There are six US Flags on the moon left from Apollo lunar landings.

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On a personal note, the Times and this column lost one of its most loyal readers last week when 91-year-old Lela Cooper of Clearspring passed away. She was a subscriber from nearly the beginning of Times when Cooper Sales & Service was a regular mowing season advertiser. Those rare times when I would visit her son, Jim, on business —monkey or otherwise—she would tell me all about what I had written. I think she remembered it better than I did. Shucks, I know she did.