Photo: Scouts from Lodge Troop 2379 retires one of the many flags at the Elks Lodge, under the guidance of a Scout leader last Friday night, June 9th.
by Phyllis Walker
In commemoration of Flag Day, which is June 14, members of Elks Lodge 2379 in Santa Clarita presented an annual tribute to the history of the American flag. Scouts in attendance presented the evolution of our country’s flags, followed by a ceremony showing the group how to properly dispose of flags that have flown and are ready to be retired.
The practice of carrying banners has been a custom for ages, representing governments and individuals from many cultures. The evolution of the American Flag marks the progression of the U.S. government, beginning after the Revolution. “The Pine Flag” was adopted for all colonial vessels, and was the banner carried by the Continental Army in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Southern colonies used the “Snake Flag” from 1776 to 1777.
Continental Congress appointed a committee in the latter part of 1775 to consider the question of a single flag for the 13 colonies. The committee recommended a design of 13 alternate stripes of red and white, an azure field in the upper corner contained the red cross of St. George, and the white cross of St. Andres. John Paul Jones, senior lieutenant of the flag ship “Alfred,” hoisted this flag to the masthead on December 3, 1775. One month later it was raised over the headquarters of General Washington at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in compliment to the United Colonies. This flag, called “The Continental Colors” and “The Grand Union,” was never carried by Continental land forces, but was used by the Navy. It was the first American flag to receive a salute of honor – 11 guns from the Fort of Orange in the Dutch West Indies.
In response to a general demand for a banner more representative of our country, the Congress on June 14, 1777 provided “that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes of alternating red and white and the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
It is generally believed that in May or June 1776, George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross Commissioned Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia Quaker, to make a flag from a rough design that was provided. Supposedly she suggested that the stars should have five points rather than six.
This starry banner was flown at Fort Stanwix (then Fort Schuyler) near Rome, New York on August 3, 1777 and was under fire three days later during a British and Indian attack.
The first official salute to the “Stars and Stripes” on February 14, 1778 was made by France, when the “Ranger” under command of John Paul Jones was saluted by the French fleet on the French coast. This flag was made by young women of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from stripes of their best colored silk dresses and the white wedding gown of a recent bride. It is said that the Flag was flown by Jones’ ship, the “Bon Homme Richard,” in its thrilling fight by moonlight, upon the high seas with the British frigate “Serapis” in 1779.
The original Stars and Stripes represented the original 13 colonies. In 1796, two additional stars and stripes were added to represent the admission of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union. The War of 1812 was fought under this banner. The site of it flying over Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814, inspired Francis Scott Key to write what became our national anthem: “The Star Spangled Banner.”
On April 14, 1818, Congress adopted a resolution that on July 4, 1818, the number of stripes should be 13 and a blue field should carry one star for each of the 20 states in the union; a new star would be added for each state admitted thereafter.
Since 1918, the flag’s design has not changed, except that 28 new stars were added before July 4, 1912. This flag, with 48 stars, flew over the nation for 47 years until July 4, 1959, when a star was added for Alaska, our first non-connected state, and a year later, for Hawaii.
Our present flag — 50 stars and 13 stripes — proudly represents our country. It is at once a history, a declaration and a prophecy. It represents the American nation as it was at its birth; it speaks for what it is today; and it holds the opportunity for the future.
For more information about Elks Lodge 2379, their programs and projects, contact Phyllis Walker at 661-251-1172 or visit www.Elks.org.