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The Flag We Love

Pam Muñoz Ryan, Illustrated by Ralph Masiello

The Flag We Love by Pam Muñoz Ryan Illustrated by Ralph Masiello Published by Charlesbridge Our flag is our country’s symbol Of ideals that are meant to last It’s a promise for our future A reminder of our past. The many connotations For which our banner stands Reflect our country’s best intentions And the people of this land. Who made the first Stars and Stripes? No one knows for sure. There are many stories and myths about its origin. Many historians consider Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, to be the designer. Betsy Ross, a seamstress, did sew one of the earliest versions of the flag for the Pennsylvania Navy in 1777. As for who made the very first flag, it is still a mystery.  America’s first flags had thirteen stars on a blue field and thirteen stripes to represent the thirteen colonies. At first, there were no guidelines about the arrangement of the stars and stripes, how big the blue field should be, or how many points the stars should have. Flagmakers were free to make many designs. A seamstress stitched a banner For a country proud and new From ribbonworks of red and white And a yard of deep sky blue. A teacher raises a radiant flag To let the children know The schoolyard is a place to come For the chance to learn and grow. The Stars and Stripes flew over a log schoolhouse as early as 1812 in Colrain, Massachusetts. In the late 1800s, James B. Upham, a patriot, wanted schoolchildren to show love for their country. He asked them to save their pennies to buy American flags for their schools. His idea was popular with both children and adults, and within a year they raised enough money to purchase thousands of flags.  Today, as a patriotic custom, the flag is still flown near schools when classes are in session.  Americans stand together Before ceremonies start And promise their allegiance With their hands across their hearts. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The original Pledge of Allegiance, written by Francis Bellamy, first appeared in a children’s magazine in 1892. He wrote it to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to America. The following month, children first recited the pledge in public schools in celebration of Columbus Day.  The diligent Stars and Stripes waved on Through the long and pounding night, While patriots prayed that they would see Their flag at morning’s light. From a boat in Baltimore Harbor, Francis Scott Key observed the British bombing of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. During the night, he saw only glimpses of the American flag through the smoke and flares of light. The next morning, he was so happy to see the flag still flying that he began writing a poem. Later, this poem was put to the tune of another song and became America’s national anthem, “The Star- Spangled Banner.” The flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” was made by Mary Pickersgill and her daughter, Caroline. It measured thirty feet by forty-two feet. It was as wide as most two-story houses are tall! Today, that restored flag is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  A casket draped with a solemn flag Journeyed the countryside While people came from town and field To mourn the man who died. While the flag is often flown during joyous occasions, it is also displayed at serious events. When President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, his flag-draped casket was carried by train from Washington, D.C., to his family home in Springfield, Illinois. When the flag is flown halfway down the flagpole, it is said to be flying at half-staff or half-mast. It is flown in this position to honor the memory of someone who has died.