Old Glory

Stars and stripes forever.

Flag: An American Biography

By Marc Leepson

From the Continental Colors to the current thirteen-stripe, fifty-star iteration (first flown on July 4, 1960), Leepson traces the geneaology of the flag of the United States of America and the powerful emotions it stirs. Originally used as a military insignia, the flag became a powerful emblem of Union solidarity during the Civil War, and in the era after World War II  rose to represent the dreams of generations of immigrant Americans. Leepson introduces a host of historic figures including Francis Scott Key and U.S. Navy Capt. Samuel Driver, who coined the phrase “Old Glory”.

Betsy Ross and the Making of America

By Marla R. Miller

A richly-woven life of a patriot and a portrait of Revolutionary War-era Philadelphia, Miller’s biography seeks to dispell the many apocryphal myths that have grown up around the flag’s creation. In her telling, Ross was a gifted craftswoman who lived “only a handshake away” from the Founding Fathers, one of the many ordinary men and woman whose industry was invaluable to helping American win independence. She may not have copied a design handed to her by George Washington (though the Washington family coat of arms appears to have inspired the stars and stripes motif), but Miller credits Ross with  replacing the six-pointed star with its now- iconic five-pointed representation — and with playing a part nurturing the nation through its infancy.

The Star-Spangled Banner

By Lonn Taylor, Jeffrey Brodie, and Kathleen Kendrick

Three curators at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History combine forces to tell the story of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key stirring poem, written after witnessing a hard-won battle during the War of 1812. This invaluable artifact has been in the Smithsonian’s care since 1907; their  account of a single flag’s outsized influence offers the authors an opportunity to reflect on the way in which the American flag provides solace  during times of collective mourning and national upheaval, from the palls draped over military caskets to the  enormous banners unfurled during sporting events.

Flags of Our Fathers

By James Bradley and Ron Powers

On February 19, 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf off of Iwo Jima. After a 35-day battle during which 26,000 US servicemen perished, they took the island, a victory solemnized by the raising of the American flag on the island’s highest peak, Mount Suribachi. The stirring photograph of that flag-raising became a powerful propaganda tool and has since been imortalized in the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA — one of the few places in America where the flag is on continuous display by presidential proclamation. James Bradley, whose father had been among the Marines who raised the flag, unpacks the battle and the image, looking at how that definitive moment had lasting — and sometimes destructive — effects on the men involved.

Flags of the Fifty States

By Randy Howe

Want to prepare for that dreamed-of appearance on Jeapordy?  Consider adding this volume to your reading list.  Each of the 50 stars on the American flag stands for a state, and the fifty states boast flags  vary as much as the character of the citizens strewn accross this great nation. From the Texas flag, a bold distillation of the stars and stripes to the grizzly bear stalking accross California’s flag, this beautifully illustrated volume includes fascinating tidbits that bring the history of a patchwork nation to vibrant life.