Silent Ambassadors

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Today is being designated Flag History Day by this stamp enthusiast, for it was on this day in 1818 that a flag with thirteen stripes and one star for each state was first adopted—yes, 1818.  So, I give you some of the fascinating past flags raised for these United States of America.  And I give you Betsy Ross, that mythic character who did not, repeat NOT, design the first American flag.  This stamp enthusiast still remembers well the first moment her American historical world was rocked by her 11th grade US history teacher when he asked the class to flip to the index in our textbooks and find him Betsy Ross.  *Gasp!*  No Betsy Ross?  But she’s on a stamp!  How can it be?  It can be because her grandson, nearly 100 years after Elizabeth Griscom/Ross/Ashburn/Claypoole was to have designed and sewn the first flag at George Washington’s behest (right in time for the Centennial celebrations), decided to mythologize his grandmother forever and ever amen (and, coincidentally, make a pretty penny into the bargain).  ARGH.  This stamp enthusiast becomes livid in the face of the ridiculous, condescending, insulting reduction of historical fact to bite-sized tall tales.  Look at those gorgeous ante-Betsy-Ross-myth banners and tell me, dare to tell me!, that there aren’t much more interesting stories behind each of them than William Canby can conjure in a fretful night of avaricious scheming!  [Personally, I rather like the John Paul Jones flag, and not only because I have something of a special affinity for Joneses.]

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: January 2, 1952
From: Philadelphia, PA
Designed by: Victor S. McCloskey, Jr.
SC #1004

Top right:
Issued on: July 4, 1968
From: Pittsburgh, PA
SC #1346

Bottom four stamps:
Issued on: June 14, 2000
From: Baltimore, MD
Designed by: Richard Sheaff
SC #3403d, 3403h, 3403g, 3403f

(Source: arago.si.edu)

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