Betsy Ross and the American Flag

Quotes and Notes

Also see Art and poems sent to us!
Minna Irving in "Betsy's Battle Flag"
A nation thrills, a nation bleeds,
A nation follows where it leads,
And every man is proud to yield
His life upon a crimson field
For Betsy's battle flag.
The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key
The most famous poem about the flag, The Star Spangled Banner, can be found in our Documents of Freedom section. Click here
Supreme Court decision, Texas v. Johnson
We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.
I Am Old Glory by Howard Schnauber
I am the flag of the United States of America.

I fly atop the world's tallest buildings.
I stand watch in America's halls of justice.
I stand side by side with the Maple Leaf on
the worlds' longest undefended border.
I fly majestically over institutions of learning.
I stand guard with power in the world.
Look up and see me.

I stand for peace, honor, truth and justice.
I stand for freedom.
I am confident.
I am arrogant.
I am proud.

When I am flown with my fellow banners,
my head is a little higher,
my colors a little truer.

I bow to no one!
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshipped — I am saluted.
I am loved — I am revered.
I am respected — and I am feared.

I have fought in every battle of every war
for more then 200 years.
I was flown at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Shiloh and Appomattox.
I was there at San Juan Hill, the trenches of France,
in the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome and the beaches of Normandy.
Guam, Okinawa, Korea and KheSan, Saigon, Vietnam know me,
I was there.

I led my troops, I was dirty, battle worn and tired,
but my soldiers cheered me And I was proud.
I have been burned, torn and trampled on the streets of
countries I have helped set free. It does not hurt,
for I am invincible.

I have been soiled upon, burned, torn and trampled on
the streets of my country. And when it's by those whom
I've served in battle — it hurts.
But I shall overcome — for I am strong.

I have slipped the bonds of Earth and stood watch over
the uncharted frontiers of space from my vantage point on the moon.
I have borne silent witness to all of America's finest hours.
But my finest hours are yet to come.

When I am torn into strips and used as bandages for my wounded
comrades on the battlefield, When I am flown at
half-mast to honor my soldier, Or when I lie in the
trembling arms of a grieving parent at the grave of their
fallen son or daughter, I am proud.

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Hurd, January 3, 1919
We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a pollyglot [sic] boarding house; and we have room for but one, soul [sic] loyalty, and that loyalty is to the American people.
President Woodrow Wilson, 1917
This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us — speaks to us of the past, or the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it.
"A Toast to the Flag" by John Jay Daly, c.1918
Here's to the red of it;
There's not a thread of it —
No nor a shred of it —
In all the spread of it,
        From foot to head,
But heroes bled for it,
Faced steel and lead for it —
Precious blood shed for it,
        Bathing it red.

Here's to the white of it;
Thrilled by the sight of it,
Who knows the right of it
But has felt the might of it
        Through day and night?
Womanhood's care for it
Made manhood dare for it;
Purity's prayer for it
        Kept it so white

Here's to the blue of it,
Heavenly view of it,
Star spangled hue of it,
Honesty's due of it,
        Constant and true;
Here's to the whole of it —
Stars, stripes and pole of it —
Here's to the soul of it,
        Red white and blue.
Popular school song, as recalled and submitted by Anne Dreisbach, an American patriot
Said Washington to Betsy Ross, "A flag our nation needs
To lead our valiant soldiers on to high and noble deeds
Now can you make one for us, to which she made reply,
"I am not certain if I can; At least I'll gladly try."

So she took some red for the blood they shed
Some white for purity,
Some stars so bright from the sky overhead
Some blue for loyalty,
And sewed them all together,
For loyal hearts and true,
And hand in hand as one we stand
For the red, the white and the blue.

Said Betsy Ross to Washington, "Your country's flag behold!"
And through his tear-dimmed eyes he saw the stars and stripes unfold.
Then to his breast he clasped it, and looked to heaven above.
"Oh may it ever stand," he cried, "For rights and truth and love."
Julia Ward Howe in "The Flag"
'Twas red with the blood of freemen
and white with the fear of the foe;
And the stars that fit in their courses
'gainst tyrants its symbols know.
(To the tune of "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean")

Thanks To Barbara J. Ortler For Sending This In
Betsy Ross lived on Arch Street near Second,
Her sewing was very,very, fine.
General Washington came down to see her,
To order a brand new flag.
Six white stripes and seven pretty red ones.
Thirteen white stars upon a field of blue;
'Twas the first flag our country ever floated,
Three cheers for the red, white and blue.
Three cheers for the red, white and blue.
Three cheers for the red, white and blue.
'Twas the first flag our country ever floated.
Three cheers for the red, white and blue!
"America for Me" by Henry Van Dyke
'Tis fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings, --
But now I think I've had enough of antiquated things.
So it's home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars

Oh London is a man's town, there's power in the air
And Paris is a woman's town, with flowers in her hair;
And it's sweet to dream in Venice, and it's great to study Rome;
But when it comes to living there is no place like home.

I like the German fir-woods, in green battalions drilled
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!

I know that Europe's wonderful, yet something seems to lack:
The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back.
But the glory of the Present is to make the Future free, --
We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.
Oh, it's home again, and home again, America for me!
I want a ship that's westward bound to plough the rolling sea,
To the blessed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.
O Beautiful Banner, Concord Song from "A Book of Songs," 1924 Homer H. Harbour and Birdsall Otis Edey
O beautiful banner all splendid with stars,
That in the breeze is flying,
Proud emblem of the free!
My heart and hand salute you,
Dear flag of liberty.

From ocean to ocean you brighten our land,
O'er prairie, forest, mountain,
Superb against the sky.
Oh flag for which men labor!
Oh flag for which men die!

Ted Turner on C-Span 2's Philanthropy & Global Challenges, 2006
I just really wonder, during the last war, you know, what business did it have on the news sets to have the American flag flying in the background? I mean it was like the news media covered the Iraq War, at least at the begining of it, almost like it was a football game with us vs. them.
Our Own Red, White and Blue (Author Unknown)
There are many flags in many lands,
There are flags of many hue,
But there is no flag however grand,
Like our own red, white and blue.

Say hurrah for our flag,
Our country's flag,
It's stripes and it's bright stars too.
But there is no flag however grand,
Like our own red, white and blue.

Lucy Larcom in "The Flag"
Each red stripe has blazoned forth
Gospels writ in blood;
Every star has sung the birth
Of some deathless good.
Justice Felix Frankfurter
The symbol of our national life.
"You're a Grand Old Flag" by George M. Cohan
Written for his 1906 stage musical "George Washington, Jr." It was the first song from a musical to sell over a million copies of sheet music. Cohan tells of an encounter with a veteran of the battle of Gettysburg. The vet held a carefully folded but ragged old flag and said to Cohan, "She's a grand old rag." Cohan's original title was, in fact, "You're a Grand Old Rag." But he changed it after people objected to calling the flag a "rag" — losing a punchy rhyme for the first lines of his song, however!
You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The flag is a symbol of the government.
General Colin Powell, USA (RET), May 1999
Americans revere their flag as a symbol of the Nation. Indeed, it is because of that reverence that the amendment is under consideration. Few countries in the world would think of amending their Constitution for the purpose of protecting such a symbol.... If they are destroying a flag that belongs to someone else, that's a prosecutable crime. If it is a flag they own, I really don't want to amend the Constitution to prosecute someone for foolishly desecrating their own property. We should condemn them and pity them instead.
"The Flag" (author unknown)
Hello. Remember me? Some people call me Old Glory, others call me the Star Spangled Banner, but whatever they call me, I am your flag, the flag of the United States of America.

Something has been bothering me, so I thought I might talk it over with you — because it is about you and me.

I remember some time ago, people would line up on both side of the street to watch the parade, and naturally I was leading every one, proudly waving in the breeze.

When your Daddy saw me coming, he immediately removed his hat and placed it against his left shoulder so that his hand was directly over his heart — remember?

And you, I remember, were standing there, straight as a soldier. You didn't have a hat, but you were giving the right salute. Remember your little sister? Not to be outdone, she was saluting the same as you with her right hand over her heart — remember?

What happened? I'm still the same old flag. Oh, I've added a few more stars since you were a boy, and a lot more blood has been shed since those parades of long ago.

But now, somehow I don't feel as proud as I used to feel. When I come down the street, you just stand there with your hands in your pockets. You may give me a small glance, and then you look away. I see children running around you shouting; they don't seem to know who I am.

I saw one man take his hat off, then he looked around, and when he didn't see anybody else take off his hat, he quickly put his on again.

Is it a sin to be patriotic today? Have you forgotten what I stand for, and where I have been? Anzio, Guadalcanal, Korea and Vietnam!

Take a look at the memorial honor rolls, and see the names of those patriotic Americans who gave their lives to keep this republic free. When you salute me, you are actually saluting them!

So when you see me, please stand straight and place your hand over your heart, and I'll know that you remembered. I'll salute you by waving back!

Gov. Jesse Ventura, vetoing a bill that would have required Minnesota schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week. November 2002
"Patriotism comes from the heart. Patriotism is voluntary... A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice."
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, 2005
If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents.
Robert Ingersoll
The emblem of equal rights. It means free hands, free lips, self-government, and the sovereignty of the individual.
Robert C. Winthrop (1809-1894), Senator from Massachusetts
Our flag is our national ensign, pure and simple, behold it! Listen to it! Every star has a tongue, every stripe is articulate.
O. Henry (1862-1919)
You can't appreciate home till you've left it, money till it's spent, your wife until she's joined a woman's club, nor Old Glory till you see it hanging on a broomstick on a shanty of a consul in a foreign town.
Henry Miller in "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare"
We have two American flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it it means danger, revolution, anarchy.
Oliver Wendell Holmes in "Old Ironsides"
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky.
John A. Dix in a telegram from Washington, 1/29/1861
If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot
Abraham Coles in "The Microcosm and Other Poems"
Fling out, fling out, with cheer and shout,
To all the winds Our Country's Banner!
Be every bar, and every star,
Displayed in full and glorious manner!
Making its way across the Internet, 1999
A visitor from Holland was chatting with his American friend and was jokingly explaining about the red, white and blue in the Netherlands flag. "Our flag symbolizes our taxes," he said. "We get red when we talk about them, white when we get our tax bill, and blue after we pay them." "That's the same with us," the American said, "only we see stars, too."
George M. Cohan
Many a bum show has been saved by the flag.
George W. Bush inaugural address, January 20, 2001
We have a place, all of us, in a long story ... The story of a slave-holding society that became a servant of freedom. ... It is the American story; a story of flawed and fallible people, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.
Lewis H. Lapham in Harper's, Nov. 1990
Talk about the flag or drugs or crime (never about race or class or justice) and follow the yellow brick road to the wonderful land of "consensus." In place of honest argument among consenting adults the politicians substitute a lullaby for frightened children: the pretense that conflict doesn't really exist, that we have achieved the blessed state in which...we no longer need politics.
Jesse Jackson
Our flag is red, white and blue, but our nation is a rainbow — red, yellow, brown, black and white — and we're all precious in God's sight.
S.I. Hayakawa
Patriotic societies seem to think that the way to educate school children in a democracy is to stage bigger and better flag-saluting
John Greenleaf Whittier in "Barbara Frietchie"
"Shoot if you must, this old grey head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.
"The Flag Goes By" by Henry Holcomb Bennett
Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off! The colors before us fly
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land's swift increase;
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverend awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong
To ward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honor, --all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off! Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off! The flag is passing by!
Frank McKinney Hubbard ("Kin Hubbard")
It seems like the less a statesman amounts to, the more he loves the flag.
The United States Supreme Court
A person gets from a symbol the meaning he puts into it.