American Patriotic Music and Symbols
Star-Spangled Banner, national anthem of the United States, was approved by act of Congress on March 3, 1931. The text was written by the American lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key aboard a British frigate during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1814. Key had boarded the ship under a flag of truce to arrange for the release of a prisoner held by the British during the War of 1812 and had been temporarily detained during the attack. The sight of the flag still flying on the following morning inspired Key to write the poem. First printed in a handbill and then in a Baltimore newspaper, it soon became a popular song. It was sung to the tune of another popular song "To Anacreon in Heaven," which was attributed to the British composer John Stafford Smith. (1)
God Bless America was composed by Irving Berlin (1888-1989). The original version of "God Bless America" was written during the summer of 1918 at Camp Upton, located in Yaphank, Long Island. He intended to use it in his Ziegfeld-style revue, Yip, Yip, Yaphank. The original lyric declared: "Make her victorious on land and foam, God Bless America...." However, Berlin eventually decided that the solemn tone of "God Bless America" was somewhat out of keeping with the more comedic elements of the show and the song was set aside. It was in the fall of 1938, as war was again threatening Europe, that Berlin decided to write a "peace" song. Then he recalled his "God Bless America" from twenty years earlier. He made some alterations to reflect the different state of the world, and God Bless America was born. Singer Kate Smith introduced the revised "God Bless America" during her radio broadcast on Armistice Day, 1938. The song was an immediate sensation. Its sheet music was in great demand. As a result, Berlin soon established the God Bless America Fund, dedicating the royalties to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. (5)
America, the Beautiful. Katharine Lee Bates wrote the first version of this song in 1893 after she made an exhausting trek up Pike's Peak. She remarked that the view was breathtaking and showed how beautiful America is. The final version was completed in 1913. (4)
My Country Tis of Thee. This favorite American patriotic hymn was written by the Reverend Samuel Francis Smith, and sung publicly for the first time in Boston in 1832. The secular world best remembers Smith as the lyricist for My Country Tis of Thee, although he wrote several other hymns. The tune to this hymn was first popular in England as "God Save the King (Queen)."(6)
Stars and Stripes Forever. This is the official march of the United States (Title 36, Section 10, Paragraph 188 of the United States Code). It was written on Christmas Day, 1896 by John Philip Sousa. Sousa wrote many famous patriotic marches.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Julia Ward Howe wrote this song after having visited some of the Union troops with her doctor husband during the Civil War. Often she had thought of making new lyrics for the popular song, "John Brown's Body." Early one morning, new words came to her. (3)
Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day - the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 - was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day. More on Flag Day.
Guidelines for Displaying the Flag
1. The flag of the United States should be flown daily from sunrise to sunset in good weather from public buildings, schools, permanent staffs, and in or near polling places on election days. The flag may be displayed 24 hours a day on patriotic holidays or if properly illuminated.
2. The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is bad, except when an all-weather flag is used.
3. The flag should always be flown on national and state holidays and on those occasions proclaimed by the President. On Memorial Day, the flag should be half staffed until noon.
4. The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously. It should never be dipped to any person nor should it ever be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress.
5. The flag should never touch anything beneath it, nor should it ever be carried flat or horizontally.
6. It should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, drapery, or decoration, nor for carrying or holding anything.
7. The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged. It should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
8. The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle. When a flag is displayed on a car, the flag's staff should be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
9. The flag or its staff should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. Nor should any picture, drawing, insignia or other decoration be placed on or attached to the flag, its staff, or halyard.
10. The flag should not be embroidered on cushions, handkerchiefs, or other personal items nor printed on anything designed for temporary use and discarded. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, or members of other patriotic organizations.
11. When the flag is so worn or soiled that it is no longer suitable for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.