Happy Flag Day
This is the first known photograph, taken on 21 June 1873 in the Boston Navy Yard by then-Commodore George Henry Preble, of the Great Garrison Flag– the famous flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem. The flag was flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland during the bombardment of the position by the Brits in 1814. Preble, entered the Navy as a midshipman on December 10, 1835, and retired in 1878 as a rear admiral after a 43-year career.
While at the Boston Naval Yard, Preble had the cotton and dyed English wool bunting flag sewn to a piece of sailcloth in order to preserve it and penned the first book about the ensign, History of the American Flag. Even in Preble’s day, the flag had to be guarded day and night to prevent souvenir hunters from making away with bits of it– and swaths cut from the banner before then still surface today.
The flag has been in the Smithsonian’s collection since 1912 and was restored/stabilized in 2008.
Also, if you are in the Philadelphia area this week/end, the faded and fragile blue silk flag known as the Commander-in-Chief’s Standard that marked General George Washington’s presence on the battlefield during the Revolutionary War will be on display this Flag Day through Sunday, marking its first public display in Philadelphia since the war itself. The Museum of the American Revolution is bringing the old banner out from secure archival storage for the event.
The AmRev will also have famous original Monmouth Flag and the Forster Flag on display, two of the oldest surviving flags from the American Revolution, dating to 1775-6.