Saturday, June 14, 2014

Still Life With Robin: It's Flag Day!

51-Star Design from Smithsonian via Wikipedia
by Peggy Robin

For Flag Day – that’s today and every June 14th, as Flag Day is one of the few remaining dependable, fixed holidays, not floating around to whatever Monday is conveniently nearby – I’m offering a little song, plus a couple of enlightening nuggets of trivia, topped off with a tip of the hat to hometown pride.

In the song category – we all know “The Star Spangled Banner,” “It’s a Grand Old Flag,”” Stars and Stripes Forever.” Here’s one you’ve probably never heard before, an American Flag Rap:

For the flag trivia, here’s are two things I learned today from the Betsy Ross web page: First, that the word for an expert in flag history and traditions is vexillologist, and second, that Francis Scott Key’s patriotic poem, The Star Spangled Banner, is set to a song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Like many Americans well versed in middle school level of historical trivia, I had long known that the tune used to set the words to music is actually an old English drinking song -- but that was all I knew. After reading the Betsy Ross trivia quiz and seeing that intriguing name of the song, I was inspired to look up the original lyrics and their origins, and so learned that it was the official song of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th Century gentleman’s club of amateur musicians. Francis Scott Key already had the tune in mind when he wrote down his poem on the night of  September 14, 1814. (Check the year, and you will see that we are fast approaching the 200th birthday of our national anthem.) See if you, too, would like to learn more.

Now to the point of the hometown pride on Flag Day. Back to those vexillologists, who have established a widely accepted set of basic principles for good flag design (see; I was pleased to discover that DC’s flag not only meets all the criteria for a well-designed flag but that it has been acclaimed as the “best designed city flag” by the North American Society of Vexillologists (  No reason why we can’t celebrate other our own local flag on Flag Day in addition to the one that flies over all.

I would love our nation’s flag all the more if it had a star for DC. For anyone out there who’s been wondering if a 51-star flag would be an awkward design, losing the nice symmetry of its current canton, with its five rows of six stars alternating with  four rows of five stars….fear not!  Here is a site showing a neatly laid out 51-star version, with three rows of nine stars alternating with three rows of eight stars: (it’s the second one shown on the site – and yes, the others are intentionally goofy). When this 51-star flag is waving, you can’t even tell it apart from the familiar 50-star variety.

Why should we wait for statehood to be represented on our nation’s flag? This is something positive that Congress could do for us right now! And what a happy Flag Day it would be for DC if we got it!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

1 comment:

  1. I always enjoy your columns and here's something to add: June 14 in Boston is Bunker Hill Day. It's a holiday for Suffolk County only. It's a subject for next year. Thanks for keeping us informed and entertained.