The Star-Spangled Banner

This 4th of July we have decided to take a closer look at “The Star-Spangled Banner”- an anthem of freedom, American beliefs, and reverence for those who have fought for our nation.

On September 13th, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pummeling the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President’s house. It was another battle in the ongoing War of 1812.

A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key’s tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13th as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.


“It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone,” Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of “the dawn’s early light” on September 14th, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.

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Francis Scott Key’s original manuscript copy of his “Defence of Fort M’Henry”

Aboard the ship the next day, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. That night, on September 16th, Key and his friend were released in Baltimore. He completed the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and titled it “Defence of Fort M’Henry”. Much of the idea of the poem, including the flag imagery and some of the wording, is derived from an earlier song by Key. The song, known as “When the Warrior Returns”, was written in honor of Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart on their return from the First Barbary War. 

 

Key gave the poem to his brother-in-law Judge Joseph H. Nicholson who saw that the words fit the popular melody “The Anacreontic Song”, by English composer John Stafford Smith. This was the official song of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th-century gentlemen’s club of amateur musicians in London. Nicholson took the poem to a printer in Baltimore, who anonymously made the first known broadside printing on September 17th; of these, two known copies survive. “The Anacreontic Song” can be listened to below: 


On September 20th, both the Baltimore Patriot and The American printed the song, with the note “Tune: Anacreon in Heaven”. The song quickly became popular, with seventeen newspapers from Georgia to New Hampshire printing it. Soon after, Thomas Carr of the Carr Music Store in Baltimore published the words and music together under the title “The Star Spangled Banner”, although it was originally called “Defence of Fort M’Henry”. Thomas Carr’s arrangement introduced the raised fourth which became the standard deviation from “The Anacreontic Song”. The song’s popularity increased and its first public performance took place in October when Baltimore actor Ferdinand Durang sang it at Captain McCauley’s tavern. Washington Irving, then editor of the Analectic Magazine in Philadelphia, reprinted the song in November 1814.

By the early 20th century, there were various versions of the song in popular use. Seeking a singular, standard version, President Woodrow Wilson tasked the U.S. Bureau of Education with providing that official version. In response, the Bureau enlisted the help of five musicians to agree upon an arrangement. Those musicians were Walter Damrosch, Will Earhart, Arnold J. Gantvoort, Oscar Sonneck and John Philip Sousa. The standardized version that was voted upon by these five musicians premiered at Carnegie Hall on December 5th, 1917, in a program that included Edward Elgar’s Carillon and Gabriel Pierné’s The Children’s Crusade. The concert was put on by the Oratorio Society of New York and conducted by Walter Damrosch. An official handwritten version of the final votes of these five men has been found and shows all five men’s votes tallied, measure by measure.

In 1899, the U.S. Navy officially adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner”. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be played at military and other appropriate occasions. The playing of the song two years later during the seventh-inning stretch of Game One of the 1918 World Series, and thereafter during each game of the series is often cited as the first instance that the anthem was played at a baseball game, though evidence shows that the “Star-Spangled Banner” was performed as early as 1897 at opening day ceremonies in Philadelphia and then more regularly at the Polo Grounds in New York City beginning in 1898.

In 1930, Veterans of Foreign Wars started a petition for the United States to officially recognize “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Five million people signed the petition. The petition was presented to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary on January 31st, 1930. On the same day, Elsie Jorss-Reilley and Grace Evelyn Boudlin sang the song to the Committee to refute the perception that it was too high pitched for a typical person to sing. The Committee voted in favor of sending the bill to the House floor for a vote. The House of Representatives passed the bill later that year. The Senate passed the bill on March 3, 1931. President Herbert Hoover signed the bill on March 4, 1931, officially adopting “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem of the United States of America. As currently codified, the United States Code states that “[t]he composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.”

Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of U.S. officialdom. “Hail, Columbia” served this purpose at official functions for most of the 19th century. “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, whose melody is identical to “God Save the Queen”, the United Kingdom’s national anthem, also served as a de facto national anthem. Following the War of 1812 and subsequent U.S. wars, other songs emerged to compete for popularity at public events, among them “America the Beautiful”.

 

Star_Spangled_Banner_Flag_on_display_at_the_Smithsonian's_National_Museum_of_History_and_Technology,_around_1964

The 15-star, 15-stripe “Star-Spangled Banner” that inspired the poem

Nearly two centuries later, the flag itself that inspired Key still survives, though fragile and worn by the years. To preserve this American icon, experts at the National Museum of American History completed an eight-year conservation treatment with funds from Polo Ralph Lauren, The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Congress.

 


“The Star-Spangled Banner is a symbol of American history that ranks with the Statue of Liberty and the Charters of Freedom,” said Brent D. Glass, the museum’s director. “The fact that it has been entrusted to the National Museum of American History is an honor.”

Started in 1996, the Star-Spangled Banner preservation project—which includes the flag’s conservation and the creation of its new display in the renovated museum—was planned with the help of historians, conservators, curators, engineers and organic scientists. With the construction of the conservation lab completed in 1999, conservators began their work. Over the next several years, they clipped 1.7 million stitches from the flag to remove a linen backing that had been added in 1914, lifted debris from the flag using dry cosmetic sponges and brushed it with an acetone-water mixture to remove soils embedded in fibers. Finally, they added a sheer polyester backing to help support the flag.

“Our goal was to extend [the flag’s] usable lifetime,” says Suzanne Thomassen-Krauss, the conservator for the project. The intent was never to make the flag look as it did when it first flew over Fort McHenry, she says. “We didn’t want to change any of the history written on the artifact by stains and soil. Those marks tell the flag’s story.”

While the conservators worked, the public looked on. Over the years, more than 12 million people peered into the museum’s glass conservation lab, watching the progress.

“The Star-Spangled Banner resonates with people in different ways, for different reasons,” says Kathleen Kendrick, curator for the Star-Spangled Banner preservation project. “It’s exciting to realize that you’re looking at the very same flag that Francis Scott Key saw on that September morning in 1814. But the Star-Spangled Banner is more than an artifact—it’s also a national symbol. It evokes powerful emotions and ideas about what it means to be an American.”

While the first stanza is the most well know, here are the full lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner”:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave


Happy 4th of July from The Stamp & Coin Place 🙂 🇺🇸

The Father’s Day Tradition

For those of you that don’t know, The Stamp and Coin Place is located in Washington state; the beautiful Pacific Northwest is home to many traditions and has some great history. One interesting piece of history is that Father’s Day was founded and first celebrated in Washington state.

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Sonora Dodd; circa 1910.
Courtesy of Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/Eastern Washington State Historical Society

The story goes that Sonora Smart Dodd was attending a Mother’s Day sermon at Central Methodist Episcopal Church in 1909 and thought Father’s deserved a similar holiday to celebrate their love and contribution to a family. Her father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran and widowed when is wife gave birth to their sixth child. As a single parent he raised his kids on a small farm between Creston, WA and Wilbur, WA (near Spokane).

Dodd initially suggested to celebrate Father’s Day on June 5, her father’s birthday. But the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.The day did not have much success initially. In the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity, even in Spokane. In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties and tobacco pipes.

Since 1938 she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion. Americans resisted the holiday during a few decades, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. But the trade groups did not give up: they kept promoting it and even incorporated the jokes into their adverts, and they eventually succeeded. By the mid-1980s the Father’s Council wrote that “[Father’s Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries.”

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father’s Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized. US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus “[singling] out just one of our two parents”. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

In addition to Father’s Day, International Men’s Day is celebrated in many countries on November 19th for men and boys who are not fathers.

A “Father’s Day” service was held on July 5th, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father when, on December 1907, the Monongah Mining Disaster in nearby Monongah killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested her pastor Robert Thomas Webb to honor all those fathers.Clayton chose the Sunday nearest to the birthday of her father, Methodist minister Fletcher Golden.

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Monongah Mining Disaster


Clayton’s event did not have repercussions outside of Fairmont for several reasons, among them: the city was overwhelmed by other events, the celebration was never promoted outside of the town itself and no proclamation was made in the City Council. Also two events overshadowed this event: the celebration of Independence Day July 4, 1908, with 12,000 attendants and several shows including a hot air balloon event, which took over the headlines in the following days, and the death of a 16-year-old girl on July 4. The local church and Council were overwhelmed and they did not even think of promoting the event, and it was not celebrated again for many years. The original sermon was not reproduced in press and it was lost. Finally, Clayton was a quiet person, who never promoted the event or even talked to other persons about it.

While Dodd is the one that did the legwork to make Father’s Day into what we know it to be today there are several other stories that tell of Father’s Day celebration that also likely had an impact on making it a national holiday:

In 1911, Jane Addams proposed a citywide Father’s Day in Chicago, but she was turned down.

In 1912, there was a Father’s Day celebration in Vancouver, Washington, suggested by Methodist pastor J. J. Berringer of the Irvington Methodist Church. They believed mistakenly that they had been the first to celebrate such a day.

Harry C. Meek, member of Lions Clubs International, claimed that he had first the idea for Father’s Day in 1915. Meek claimed that the third Sunday of June was chosen because it was his birthday. The Lions Club has named him “Originator of Father’s Day”. Meek made many efforts to promote Father’s Day and make it an official holiday.

No matter where Father’s Day came from we are happy it exists today and gives us an excuse to connect with our loved ones and celebrate all the wonderful Fathers.

Happy Father’s Day 🙂

The First Christmas Stamps

Those who celebrate Christmas traditionally send Christmas cards, so why shouldn’t there be Christmas stamps, too?

It’s a little unclear what country made the first Christmas stamp, but it was most likely Canada, though it’s not the most festive stamp around – it’s only considered a Christmas stamp because of the inscription “XMAS 1898” near the bottom. The stamp features a map highlighting the British empire in red, with the words “Canada Postage” at the top.

The reason for the “XMAS” addition to the stamp reportedly comes from a story of quick-thinking on William Mulock’s part: he proposed the stamp be issued on November 9th to “honor the Prince” (the Prince of Wales). But Queen Victoria asked “What Prince?” in a critical tone, and Mulock countered with “Why, madam, the Prince of Peace.” That’s some quick thinking, Mulock.

Stamp_AU_1957_4p_Xmas

Austria issued its own Christmas stamps in 1937 featuring a rose and zodiac signs. And in 1939, Brazil issued its own, decidedly more Christmassy, stamps featuring the three kings, a star, and an angel. The first Nativity stamp emerged from Hungary in 1943.

The U.S. had its own Christmas stamp debate in the 1960’s. To that date the country had never issued stamps honoring the holiday, and the USPS hesitated due to the separation of church and state. But high demand for Christmas stamps won out. The USPS printed 350 million four-cent stamps with a wreath and two candles. The stamps quickly sold out. By the end of the print run that year, a billion of the stamps had been issued, the most special stamps printed at that time.

Christmas stamps are popular among collectors. There’s no doubt that holiday stamps have made a mark in the stamp world.

Do you collect Christmas stamps?

5 Classic Cupid Symbols

It’s not even close to Valentine season, but as it turns out, Cupid gives meaning to far more than cheesy cards and boxes of chocolates.

It all starts with the cameo.

Though the most popular cameo style today features the profile of a woman (popularized by Queen Victoria), prior to the Victorian era, numerous other styles and themes appeared on the cameo.

In older times, these images were often thought to have a kind of magic and were often given as a love token. So it makes sense that the most powerful images portrayed Eros, or Cupid, the god of love.

Some say that whatever Cupid holds or does in the image gives a hidden message. Fun Valentine activity: give your significant other a Cupid card, tell them it contains a hidden message, and watch them sweat.

A rare enamel patch box, available here.

A rare enamel patch box showing Cupid riding a lion, available here.

But for those who want to know what Cupid is up to, here’s your handy guide to five classic Cupid symbols:

1. Cupid with a rose means a secret love. Cupid often carries a rose in mythology, which comes from the Roman tradition of hanging a rose over a conference table as a symbol of secrecy. In legend, Cupid gives the god of silence, Harpocrates, a rose so he will keep the secrets of Venus.

2. Cupid riding a lion says love conquers all. This is one of the oldest cameo images, and it has lasted to this day. Cupid is also often shown riding a dolphin, which is possibly a metaphor for Apollo’s love for Daphne.

3. A blindfolded Cupid suggests “love is blind.”

4. Cupid in chains means “love-bound”.

5. Cupid shown with a bow in his hand means he is ready for battle in the war of love.

Bonus symbol: Cupid isn’t always used as a symbol of love. You can find him on pieces of mourning jewelry leaning against an urn or column. When someone is in mourning, people will often ask, “How are you holding up?” So it is with Cupid, literally holding himself up with the urn or column. A sorrowful Cupid is shown pensively standing in a somber pose, with a cameo background of black onyx or another dark material. The piece might also have pearls to represent tears.

Cupid on a Dolphin

Cupid on a Dolphin

Cupid has always been a popular subject of not only cameos, but also of jewelry and various other items. Archaeologists found a 2,000-year-old carving of Cupid in Jerusalem three years ago. The carving shows Cupid with an upside-down torch, possibly symbolizing the fading of life.

Next time you see Cupid on a Valentine’s Day card or a piece of jewelry, consider the picture’s details. They may mean more than you think.

And if you’re given a card with Cupid holding an upside-down torch, somebody doesn’t like you.

Sources:

Valentine’s day

Mythological Messages

2,000-Year-Old Cupid Uncovered