I know I promised that we’d talk about Reconstruction and the Rise of Capitalization and maybe we will sometime, just not today. Today we’re going to talk about how our flag went from a humble, hand-sewn banner to a mass-manufactured commodity made in Chinese factories by 10-year-olds in quantities large enough so that every Tea Party wacko can wave three of them when Sarah Palin shows up.
At first, there was no one single flag.
Everyone had their own ideas for flags. One had a picture of a snake and the words, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Another had a pine tree with the words “An Appeal to Heaven.” Yet another had Alexander Hamilton’s ex-wife’s phone number with the words “For a Good Time Call.” But people started thinking there ought to be one single flag since, hey, E Pluribus Unum, right? But then they had to come up with something everyone liked, which turned out to be a problem. Democrats wanted a blue flag, Republicans wanted a red flag and Southerners wanted a black-and-white checkered flag.
First they tried having a contest where schoolkids submitted their designs. That didn’t work so well because there wasn’t any drawing paper and so the kids started sending shovels on which they had drawn their designs in charcoal. No one (except Southerners) wanted a black and white flag so that idea was a complete fail. After a whole Revolutionary War spent scratching their heads wondering about a flag, they finally got their act together during the war of 1812. Here’s the really true story.
First, there was a woman named Betsy Ross. Betsy Ross was a seamstress in Baltimore. She also liked to tip a few but that’s not part of the story. I just bring it up because she got a little loose when she’d been drinking and sometimes woke up in the back of a haywagon with some guy she’d met the night before and that IS part of the story either. One time she woke up early in the morning, just the birds were singing and found she was next to a guy named Francis “Scott” Key. Scott was a part-time beer vendor at the Orioles games and was trying to get a break in the music industry. He had just hired an agent, Jose Ruiz, who was friends with a guy who owned the Ramada Inns in the Baltimore area. Jose was trying to book Scott Key into some of the lounges but it wasn’t working out.
Anyway, when Betsy Ross woke up, she couldn’t find her bra, which was a Wonder Woman bra. She’d gone shopping for a Wonder bra but was pretty drunk and ended up coming home with three Wonder Woman bras, all of which made her look like she’d been shot in the back with two rockets. She was really desperate to find her bra since if she went home without it her husband, Jim Ross Lightfoot, would say, “hey, WTF are you coming home without your bra. Something’s not right!”
Meanwhile, a British soldier was sneaking back to Fort McHenry with her bra. Turns out, Francis “Scott” Key hadn’t been Betsy’s only amusement in the back of the haywagon. Just as the sun was coming up, Scott Key, who had to work a doubleheader that day, sent a note to his agent asking him to go to Fort McHenry to retrieve Betsy’s bra.
The note read: “Jose, can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly I unhooked at twilight’s last gleaming? That bra’s stripes in the bar, we had a helluva fight.”
Luckily, Jose was able to climb the ramparts, avoiding the red glare and the bombs bursting in air and got Betsy’s bra back. When Scott Key took it to her house, she opened the door a crack and whispered that her husband was very suspicious and that she had to get back to the flag she was sewing.
“I want to see you again,” Scott Key said. “No chance,” Betsy said. My husband is a card-carrying member of the National Musket Association and he’ll blow your sorry ass away.”
When the dejected Scott Key got home, he pulled out his keys, his change and his wallet to put them on the dresser and he found the note Jose had returned to him when he brought back the bra.
“Eureka! I have it!” Scott Key cried. “I will write a national anthem! Since Betsy’s hubby is such a patriot, he won’t dare mess with the guy who wrote the National Anthem!” So he changed some of the words around and called it “The British Bra’d this on Themselves” But Jose talked him out of that and so he renamed it “The Star Spangled Banner” which is actually a reference to Betsy’s panties (see picture above right) but that’s a story for another day.
Next time: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the Raiders