The Flag, the Poet and the Song: The Story of the Star-Spangled Banner

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"We all take our national anthem for granted. But it was not always so. In this book, New York Times reporter Irvin Molotsky tells the story behind the story and, in the process, reveals an important and little-known piece of our country's heritage. Molotsky brings both legendary and unknown events and figures to life - from the flag's seamstress to the military heroes of the War of 1812. He charts the events leading up to the war, and the far-reaching impact this obscure conflict has had on our national psyche. The Flag, the Poet, and the Song
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Overview

"We all take our national anthem for granted. But it was not always so. In this book, New York Times reporter Irvin Molotsky tells the story behind the story and, in the process, reveals an important and little-known piece of our country's heritage. Molotsky brings both legendary and unknown events and figures to life - from the flag's seamstress to the military heroes of the War of 1812. He charts the events leading up to the war, and the far-reaching impact this obscure conflict has had on our national psyche. The Flag, the Poet, and the Song also uncovers the facts and fallacies surrounding the flag and the song, from the tremendous size of the flag to why we continue trying to sing our anthem to this day."--BOOK JACKET.
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Editorial Reviews

Arizona Republic
You'll sound very smart after you read this charming, trivia-filled book, written by an editor at the New York Times.
Chicago Sun-Times
The Flag, the Poet, and the Song is concise and easy to read, a fine little history for our times.
Kirkus Reviews
A diverting history of the national anthem-ironic, anecdotal, and blessed with a dry humor-from New York Times reporter Molotsky. Bellicose and bumptious, that martial tune "The Star-Spangled Banner" is inescapable: sporting events, civic ceremonies, holidays, whatever-the anthem gets trotted out and the words butchered by an enthusiastic vox populi (not to mention by Robert Goulet and Jose Feliciano during prime-time television). But as a national anthem it's only 70 years old. And its history? Wasn't the flag sewn by Betsy Ross and the song written by Francis Scott Key after a successful Revolutionary War battle? No-and Molotsky entertainingly sets readers straight. Mary Pickersgill sewed the flag (Betsy Ross may well be a national figment) that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, in a battle the successfully defended Baltimore. Baltimore? Yes, a far more important burg 200 years ago than provincial Washington (which had already been torched by British troops anyway). The author draws a terrific thumbnail sketch of the War of 1812-a much-misunderstood event, particularly in American history textbooks (which often conveniently forget the US invasion of Canada). He also introduces the major characters involved in the battles, the flag-making, and the songs, with lots of caustic asides (Key, for example, was a slave owner who felt perfectly comfortable rhapsodizing on "the land of the free"). He even dissects the words of the anthem for us, so that readers will know what "the rockets' red glare" refers to. There is a rather long section on flag-burning and the First Amendment, but Molotsky keeps things lively by skewering any pompous windbaggery (such as that displayed bySenator Orrin Hatch and his self-serving, patriotic grandstanding) on the issue. A fascinating slice of America's past, wonderfully told. It might even inspire sports fans to get the words right.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525946007
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/31/2001
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
1 The Star-Spangled Baritone and the Clocker 1
2 The Widow, the Poet and the Soldiers 15
3 The Second War of Independence 19
4 Why the British Burned Washington and Other War Stories 44
5 The Poet and the Flag Come Together 70
6 A Hero's Death 103
7 Two Weary Nations Agree to End Their War 127
8 Where the Flag and the Song Went After the War 133
9 Little by Little, America Gets a National Anthem 149
10 Should the Constitution Be Changed to Protect the Flag? 160
11 Saving America's Most Famous Flag for Our Grandchildren 205
12 What the Future Holds for the National Anthem 210
Appendix 215
Acknowledgments 221
Bibliography 225
Index 229
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