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September 26, 2022

Reflections on the Flag

Lots of stars and stripes around H’burg this week. Old Glory, here on University Avenue, rests unfurled every day. It’s protected by Plexiglas from premature weathering, the fate of a prior flag. Fireworks were also on display this Fourth of July, returning in a big way after a Covid hiatus. Happy birthday, America! Thank you, Healdsburg.

Fun facts: The first fireworks celebrating America occurred on July 4, 1777, when 13 fireworks signifying 13 colonies were set off in Philadelphia’s and Boston’s commons. 

The idea came from John Adams to celebrate the Declaration of Independence. Fireworks reportedly displayed only one color until 1830. Multi-color bursts were developed from different minerals, where copper yields blue, strontium red, sodium yellow and barium green. The national anthem celebrates a flag flying in “rockets’ red glare.” 

Our flag’s nickname, Old Glory, applies to all American flags, but stems from a particular flag. The original Old Glory is a 10 x 17-foot banner sewn in 1824 to celebrate William Driver’s appointment as a sea captain in Salem, MA at the young age of 21. It was designed to fly atop Driver’s ship. He carried it with him as he sailed around the world until the age of 37, when he retired due to his wife’s illness and death. 

Remarrying and moving to Nashville, TN from Massachusetts, Driver’s family was split during the Civil War. Sons fought for the Confederacy, while William proudly flew Old Glory. Many attempts were made to wrest the stars and stripes from Driver, but he kept the flag safe, hiding it sewn in a bed-quilt. When Tennessee was liberated by the 6th Ohio Infantry Regiment, Driver presented the flag to Gen. William “Bull” Nelson. 

The regiment adopted the nickname Old Glory, which was Driver’s beloved name for the flag. In 1922, Old Glory was presented to President Warren Harding, who gave it to the Smithsonian.  

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