Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Tennessee Flag: Three Stars Endlessly Bound Together

Capt. LeRoy Reeves (Photo:www.johnsondepot.com)

It begins like this ...

The Tennessee state flag was designed by LeRoy Reeves. Reeves, born in 1876, was first a teacher and then a lawyer. In 1903, he organized a company of the Tennessee National Guard, Company F, Third Infantry.

The Third Infantry of the Tennessee National Guard should not be confused with the Third Regiment of the Tennessee Infantry, a Union infantry formed in 1861 and retired in 1865 after suffering tremendous losses. It turns out that during the Civil War, each of the 11 Confederate states, of which Tennessee was one, also produced Unionist regiments – such as the Tennessee Third Regiment (www.wikipedia.org and www.civilwararchive.com).

Tennessee farmland (Painting: Christopher Greco)
Tennessee has three distinct geographical areas: the East, the West and the middle. Eastern Tennessee includes the Smoky Mountains. Western Tennessee is flat and agricultural. The middle has rolling hills and horse farms. Reeves wanted his flag to recognize the uniqueness of these three regions as well as therir statehood unity. The three stars represent the three regions. The circle that encloses them represents their unity.

The Tennessee state flag

 Reeves described the flag like this:
"The three stars are of pure white, representing the three grand divisions of the state. They are bound together by the endless circle of the blue field the symbol being three bound together in one-an indissoluble trinity The large field is crimson. The final blue bar relieves the sameness of the crimson field and prevents the flag from showing too much creation when hanging limp. The white edgings contrast more strongly the other colors." (www.tnmilitary.org)

The flag was officially adopted by the state legislature in 1905.

Making Things Official: Kentucky's State Flag

Kentucky horse farm (Photo: Gene Burch© 2005)
Kentucky, like Massachusetts, Virginia and Pennsylvania, is one of four state to call itself a commonwealth. On June 1, 1792, it was recognized as the 15th state.

Though one of the older states, Kentucky took its time deciding on the details of its flag. In 1918, for instance, Kentucky had an "authorized" flag design but no actual state flag ­– not one with specific dimensions, at any rate.
Soldiers from Camp Zachary Taylor, 1918 (Photo: monroe.ilgenweb.net)

Then comes the end of World War I. On March 30, 1920, Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, a training camp for US soldiers during WWI, was scheduled to be closed. Camp Zachary Taylor had trained 125,000 soldiers for the war and was one of only 16 such camps in the entire country. Its closing was a big deal.

The closing required a formal ceremony, and the ceremony required the official flag of the Commonwealth of Kentucky to be flown. A flag, as described on the books, was made and flown. Sources vary in terms of what exactly was so wrong with the flag. One source (kynghistory.ky.gov) indicates that the flag was "constructed in haste" and not terribly attractive (though the design then is not so different from the current one).

Presidents Hoover and Coolidge at Hoover's inauguration (Photo: Life©)
In general, however, the lack of official dimensions (official elegant dimensions?) apparently did not inspire a great deal of pride in flag. Be that as it may, not much was done to resolve the situation over the coming decades. 

Another early version of the state flag was created later in the 1920s. The designer, Mrs. Jessie Cox, was an art teacher. Three versions of the flag were made from her drawing. Of these, two survive, one of which was carried in Pres. Herbert Hoover's 1929 inauguration. (See photo below, courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society and kynghistory.ky.gov.) 
Section of the Kentucky flag c. 1929 (KY Historical Society)

In 1961, Major Taylor L. Davidson and Governor Combs decided to sort out the flag's dimensions once and for all. A revised flag with official dimensions was finally adopted in 1962. Like its predecessor, it consists of a blue background "with the seal of the Commonwealth encircled by a wreath" of blooming goldenrod along the bottom half of the seal. The words, "Commonwealth of Kentucky," encircle the upper half of the seal.

As for those dimensions, well,  the official Kentucky flag is unique in its length.  The flag  of the Commonwealth is required to be 1 and 9/10 times the flag's width. The seal, centered along the middle of the flag, is required to be 2/3 of the flag's width. 
The official flag of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Monday, June 20, 2011

Arkansas: The Diamond Spangled Banner!

Marilyn Monroe in jeans. No diamonds. (Photo: The Misfits)

Diamonds are a girl's best friend! 
At least, they certainly were for the designer of the Arkansas state flag, the Diamond Spangled Banner!

Designed by a history teacher, this flag's design is not only clear and bold, but rich in the symbolism of the state's history. The flag's story begins in a Camden, NJ shipyard...

USS Arkansas (Photo: E.M. Mitchell)
On January 14, 1911, a new battleship is launched. She is the largest in the US Navy: She holds over 1,000 crew members and has a maximum speed of 20.5 knots. 

The new ship is commissioned on September 17, 1912 and named after the 25th state. This is the USS Arkansas!

Meanwhile, back in Arkansas...
The Pine Bluff chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution wants to present the new ship with a state flag, but the state Secretary of State informs them that Arkansas does not have an official state flag! Not that easily daunted, the ladies hold a contest.

Miss Willie K. Hocker (Photo: AK History Commission)
According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette archives, there are 65 entries, some arriving as drawings and some as miniature, silk samples. The winning design, however, came from a D.A.R. member and area history teacher, Miss Willie Kavanaugh Hocker. Miss Hocker, from  Wabbaseka, AK, a town with a current population of less than 300, also belonged to the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Colonial Dames Society (www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net). She is, apparently, only one of two women state flag designers (www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net).

Being a history teacher, Miss Hocker embued her flag with a great deal of symbolism.

• She chose our national colors as her palette, letting the red, white and blue emphasize that Arkansas is part of the United States.

• She knew that Arkansas is the only state to mine diamonds, a fact that was as true in 1913 as it is today. To celebrate this, Miss Hooker used a large, white diamond as her central motif. (According to www.geology.com, Arkansas has only one active diamond mine remaining. It is located at Crater of Diamonds State Park.)

(Photo:  Christiem)
• She put 25 stars inside a blue border outlining the central diamond. These represent Arkansas' place as the 25th state in the Union. It also is a design element similar to the Confederate flag (see below: Trouble in the Middle

Trouble in the middle
In the middle of the diamond is the state's name and 4 diamonds organized into 2 groupings, one above and one below the state name. Originally there were only 3 stars. These represented France, Spain and the United States, the 3 founding countries to lay claim to the territory from the Louisiana Purchase that would become Arkansas. When the territory was divided, it created 14 different states (in whole and in part). Arkansas was the third state created. The 3 stars also symbolize this piece of the state's history.

During the Civil War, however, Arkansas joined the Confederacy. In 1924, it was decided that this needed to be recognized in the flag so a fourth star was added. The final placement shows the original 3 stars below the state name and a 4th star above it. This 4th star represents Arkansas' membership in the Confederacy.

This is the final version of Arkansas' state flag:
The Diamond Spangled Banner of Arkansas by Miss Willie K. Hocker

Just for fun...
Some historical photos from the USS Arkansas. 
(US Navy photos courtesy of NavSource Naval History)

The first to command the USS Arkansas is Capt. Roy Campbell Smith (1912-1914). She is next commanded by Rear Admiral Cameron Winslow who also commands the First Division. Winslow makes the Arkansas his flagship. Eventually, he becomes Commander in Chief of the entire Atlantic fleet.
Rear Adm. Winslow (Photo Library of Congress)
Playing Acey Ducey on the Arkansas (Photos: Library of Congress)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day: Designed to Unite

Early Flag Day postcard (photo:web archive)
It is Philadelphia in the year 1777. The 2nd Continental Congress is meeting every day including this, the Saturday of June 14.

The business of the day includes everything from the suspension of a Massachusetts sea captain "of doubtful character," to the provisioning of New York state with 2,000 bushels of salt as they have been severely shorted from the war and the closing of her harbors.

Other business includes new duties for Major General Benedict Arnold and Captain John Paul Jones. Arnold is given command of "all the [new] militia now at Bristol" and along the Hudson River to the east of Philadelphia. Captain Jones is made commander of the warship Ranger.

The flag sewn by Betsy Ross (photo: web archive)

Within the day's debate, discussion, and decisions is a simple, 31-word sentence that codifies the symbol of this new nation. It is the description of her flag:

Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address (photo: AmericanRhetoric.com)
"With malice toward none; with charity for all..."

Although the national flag is created during the Revolution, it is not until the Civil War had torn this nation apart that the idea of celebrating the flag as a symbol of unity is born. Needless to say, the idea is not immediately popular in the American South. 

The first Flag Day parade was ... where exactly?

Many places lay claim to the first Flag Day parade. Its history is a story of pride, of celebration – and of patience!

• In 1861, George Morris of Hartford, CT organizes a Flag Day parade in June. This is the first year of the Civil War. Fort Sumter, its first battle, is as recent as April 12.

(photo: National Flag Day Foundation)
• In 1885, Bernard Cigrand organizes a Flag Day in Wisconsin. In 1894, Cigrand organizes another in Chicago. Reports indicate that over 300.000 children participated in parades throughout the city's parks. Cigrand claimed he gave over 2,000 speeches on creating a national holiday to celebrate the flag. He is the founder of the American Flag Day Association and later became a president of the National Flag Day Society. Needless to say, Cigrand is regarded by many as the father of Flag Day. 

Before Flag Day became a national holiday, however, there were several notable flag celebrations.

 • In 1887, 100 years after that first June 14, Congress orders the flag to be flown from all public buildings throughout the nation (www.History.com). 

Historic versions of the Stars and Stripes.
• In 1907, the Elks make it an annual tradition to fly the flag on June 14.

• In 1909, Fairfield, WA has its first Flag Day parade. This and Morris' Hartford, CT parade are the oldest Flag Day parades recorded and though both are long running, neither has been continuous. 

• In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson makes Flag Day an official "day" which is not at all the same thing as being a national holiday. The date coincides with American involvement in World War I. In 1914, however, the President had declared the first Mother's Day as a time to fly the flag.

c. June, 1914 (photo: Library of Congress)
• In 1949, President Harry Truman makes Flag Day an official national holiday. Although Cigrand has passed away, William Kerr, a colleague of Cigrand's and the founder of the National Flag Day Society (the National Flag Day Foundation) is in attendance at the president's invitation.

• In 1950, Appleton, WI hosts its first Flag Day parade, a parade which has been running continuously!

• In 1952, Quincy, MA began its parade which also has been held every year ever since!

But the biggest parade (according to online sources), a parade claiming to draw as many as 50,000 people in a city with a population of about that same number, is the Troy, NY Flag Day parade. These pictures are from the 2011 parade which included the US Air Force Honor Guard. Pretty nice!

US Air Force Honor Guard (photo: Mikecny's©)

Sunrisers Drum and Bugle Corps (photo: Times Union©)

Small but stylin'! (photo: Times Union©)
How did you celebrate flag day?
You can leave us a post here or share your photos with us on FaceBook USFlagstore.com!
Troy, NY is the birthplace of Uncle Sam! (photo: Mikecny's©)