June 20, 2017: Fly the flag for West Virginia Statehood, and remembering Muhammad Ali

June 20, 2017

Homemade West Virginia Statehood U.S. flag with 35 stars. Image from RareFlags.com

Homemade West Virginia Statehood U.S. flag with 35 stars. Image from RareFlags.com

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia joined the fractured union as the 35th state.

Yes, that was during the Civil War.  Yes, West Virginia had been the northwestern counties of Virginia.  No, I’m not sure of the history of how Congress decided Virginia had consented to be divided.

In any case, per the guidelines in the U.S. Flag Code, West Virginians should fly the U.S. flag today in honor of their statehood, 154 years ago.  West Virginia no doubt has lots of celebrations, reenactments, and general festive events planned.

West Virginia's State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011

West Virginia’s State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 11, 2011 — built in 1931. From O Palsson’s Flickr collection: “As I was traveling through Charleston, the capital of West Virgina, during blue hour (my favorite time of day) a couple of days after Thanksgiving, I happened upon this beautiful sight of the State Capitol Building reflected in the Kanawha River flowing by in total stillness, so I just had to stop and capture the scene. I didn’t have a tripod handy, so this is not a long-exposure nightshot, just a regular hand-held shot accomplished by bumping up the ISO as much as I dared to get correct exposure at acceptable shutter speed (ended up being 1/40 sec) and doing my best to keep the camera steady.”

Sunday I had a visit with a fellow who was born in western Virginia, went to school at Virginia Tech, and knew the New River geography (which was how we got into the conversation). He said the New River emptied into a river whose name he could never pronounce. Took a few minutes to realize he meant the Kanawha River, shown in the photo above. Pronouncing the river, and the county correctly is an interesting exercise. We once thought about living along the Kanawha, and I appreciated the frustration of our Virginia friend.

It’s usually pronounced in two syllables, ka-NAH; when locals have more time for a slower-paced conversation, it may become ka-NAH-uh — but they’ll look at you funny if they hear a “w” in your pronunciation. (Your mileage may vary; tell about it in comments.)

Kathryn and I have a few fond memories of Charleston on the banks of the Kanawha River.  Then-West Virginia Attorney General Charlie Brown was one of the few with enough wisdom to offer me a job, when I graduated from the National Law Center at George Washington University as an older student.  Brown promised to clean up West Virginia politics, and he had a lively, very young crew of attorneys fighting coal companies, oil companies, loggers, shady real estate people, and corrupt city, county and state officials.  One fellow in the office complained that he’d “had to argue eight cases” at the State Supreme Court that year, in his first year out of law school.

But the corrupt officials knew what they were doing.  Brown could only offer $25,000 a year, and in Charleston it was unlikely we’d be able to find any work for Kathryn.  Tough to attract crime fighters at less-than crime-fighting rates. It would have been a more than 75% cut in income.  We made a trip there to mull it over, baby on the way (pre-digital photographs buried in the archives).  Brown got a special dispensation to offer me $5,000 more.

Great tour of the Capitol, great interviews with the office lawyers.  Kathryn and I sat for a long while in the deserted West Virginia Supreme Court (sort of tucked into an attic of the Capitol) discussing how in the world we could afford to move the Charleston and take on the work.  We drove around the city, looking at houses for sale and rent; we gazed at the Kanawha River and discussed the future for the city.

We went to dinner in a tiny restaurant touted as Charleston’s finest, which was a long way from good eateries in D.C.  We discussed with our host the cultural pickings in Charleston.  We could give up the symphony but get back to fishing and practice fly fishing . . .

A few tables over, the maitre ‘d brought in a few extra chairs, and then seated Muhammad Ali and his party.  Our waiter asked that we not make a scene.

I don’t remember for what charitable purpose Ali was in Charleston, but the event was over and his hosts took him out to the good restaurant in Charleston, too.

Ali was a slower, sedate and gentle version of the fiery fighter he’d been.  Parkinson’s disease already had him in its grip.  His voice, soft as it could be at times, was still strong enough to carry across a table.  There was a young boy with the group, under five years old.  Ali had lost steps, but not spirit.  He produced a couple of balls from a pocket and proceeded to dazzle the kid with sleight-of-hand magic tricks.  He picked one of the balls from behind the kid’s ear, and the kid giggled wonderfully.  Balls appeared here, disappeared there — I remember thinking how much easier those tricks could be with hands that big; but Ali also had difficulty dealing with a knife and fork.  Working magic tricks pulled years away from Ali, and he seemed much younger, much more deft than he really was.  The little boy laughed and giggled through the meal.  It was a happy affair.

Our dinners finished about the same time.  As we got up, Ali looked over at us and said, “You wonder why I spend so much time with children?  They are the future.”

I turned down the offer from West Virginia.  A job I’d hoped for at American Airlines fell through, but a position opened up at the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) at Bill Bennett’s Department of Education.  A year or so later I saw small item in the Washington Post that Charlie Brown had been indicted on some charge.  Coal companies still have a lot of clout in West Virginia.

This is an anniversary day for Ali, too:  June 20, 1967, Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston, Texas, of evading the draft.  That conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fly those flags in West Virginia.

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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Celebrating Flag Day

June 14, 2017

NASA History office (@NASAHistory) Tweeted this out: Happy #FlagDay! Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott salutes the American flag at the Hadley-Apennine landing site on the Moon, 1971.

You’ve got your flag flying for Flag Day, right?

Flag Day is one of the least holiday-ish commemorative days on the U.S. calendar.  I doubt anyone gets the day off. There are a few scheduled events, maybe a flag-raising, or a fly over.

Most of us go to work, we note a few more flags flying. That’s it.

Some newspapers and other news outlets take the opportunity to tell us flag history, or flag etiquette. Mostly Flag Day is a day for people say hurray for the flag!

That’s not bad.

What are other people doing and saying (beyond the other tragedies of the day)?

One of my favorite pictures from Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. The flag is on a temporary pole — the view from the cupola is fantastic, but few ever get to see it.

How do you provide real, courtroom-worthy evidence that the Moon landings by Apollo really happened, that they were not hoaxes? You show the prints on the Moon. You show the flag that is still there:

Oh, that NASA History post:

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Flag Day 2017 – Fly your flag June 14!

June 14, 2017

Flag Day cartoon by Clifford Berryman (Washington Post?); June 14, 1918

Flag Day cartoon by Clifford Berryman (Washington Post?); June 14, 1918

Our traditional Flag Day post.

Of course, you’re ready to fly your Stars and Stripes on Tuesday, June 14, right?

You may fly your flag the entire week, Sunday through Saturday, designated Flag Week by law. But please remember to get the flag out on June 14 at least.

Flag Day 2014 celebrates the U.S. flag, now over 200 years since the night (in September) the British invaded Baltimore — the Battle of Baltimore, and the Battle of Baltimore Harbor, during the War of 1812.  On that night, Georgetown, D.C., lawyer Francis Scott Key negotiated the release of a physician the British captured during their raid on Washington, D.C.  But British officers didn’t want Key to be able to reveal what he might have learned about their next target, Baltimore.  So they put Key on a boat to watch as they invaded Baltimore, trying to capture the fort that guarded the harbor, Fort McHenry.

Yes, THAT battle.  Key saw the flag at the fort flying, under extreme bombardment, at sunset.  The bombardment continued through night.  At dawn, on September 14, 1814, Key saw that the massive flag at Fort McHenry still flew, meaning the British invasion failed.

He was inspired to write poem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry.”  You know the opening line:

“O! Say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?”

History by Zim has a more detailed account — and this photo, noted as probably the first photograph of that same flag.

From History by Zim:

From History by Zim: “This is the first known photograph of the American flag taken on June 21, 1873 by George Henry Preble. The flag was flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland during an infamous battle between the British and the United States during the War of 1812. Photo Credit: National Star-Spangled Banner Centennial, Baltimore, Maryland, September 6 to 13, 1914.”

Flag Day, June 14th, marks the anniversary of the resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, adopting the Stars and Stripes as the national flag.

Fly your flag today. This is one of the score of dates upon which Congress suggests we fly our U.S. flags.

The first presidential declaration of Flag Day was 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson won re-election the following November with his pledge to keep America out of World War I, but by April of 1917 he would ask for a declaration of war after Germany resumed torpedoing of U.S. ships. The photo shows an America dedicated to peace but closer to war than anyone imagined. Because the suffragettes supported Wilson so strongly, he returned the favor, supporting an amendment to the Constitution to grant women a Constitutional right to vote. The amendment passed Congress with Wilson’s support and was ratified by the states.

The flags of 1916 should have carried 48 stars. New Mexico and Arizona were the 47th and 48th states, Arizona joining the union in 1913. No new states would be added until Alaska and Hawaii in 1959. That 46-year period marked the longest time the U.S. had gone without adding states, until today. No new states have been added since Hawaii, more than 57 years ago. (U.S. history students: Have ever heard of an essay, “Manifest destiny fulfilled?”)

150 employees of the National Geographic Society marched in that parade in 1916, and as the proud CEO of any organization, Society founder Gilbert H. Grosvenor wanted a photo of his organization’s contribution to the parade. Notice that Grosvenor himself is the photographer.

I wonder if Woodrow Wilson took any photos that day, and where they might be hidden.

History of Flag Day from a larger perspective, from the Library of Congress:

Since 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation establishing a national Flag Day on June 14, Americans have commemorated the adoption of the Stars and Stripes by celebrating June 14 as Flag Day. Prior to 1916, many localities and a few states had been celebrating the day for years. Congressional legislation designating that date as the national Flag Day was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1949; the legislation also called upon the president to issue a flag day proclamation every year.

According to legend, in 1776, George Washington commissioned Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to create a flag for the new nation. Scholars debate this legend, but agree that Mrs. Ross most likely knew Washington and sewed flags. To date, there have been twenty-seven official versions of the flag, but the arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers’ preferences until 1912 when President Taft standardized the then-new flag’s forty-eight stars into six rows of eight. The forty-nine-star flag (1959-60), as well as the fifty-star flag, also have standardized star patterns. The current version of the flag dates to July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959.

Fly your flag with pride today.

Elmhurst Flag Day 1939, DuPage County Centennial - Posters From the WPA

Elmhurst flag day, June 18, 1939, Du Page County centennial / Beauparlant.
Chicago, Ill.: WPA Federal Art Project, 1939.
By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943

This is an encore post, from June 14, 2009, and other previous Flag Days.

More, and Other Voices:

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Why there were no personal computers, or smartphones, in the 1960s

June 13, 2017

Love this photo. It says so much.

Science Magazine Tweet: 10 MB hard disk from the 1960s.

Science Magazine Tweet: 10 MB hard disk from the 1960s.

Who is the guy in the photo? Pretty sure it’s a contemporaneous picture of the historic artifact.

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On what dates should we fly the flag in June 2017?

June 5, 2017

Flags at Post Office building, Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. on Flag Day, 1913. Now commonly referred to as the Old Post Office Building, this is the lobby of the Trump Hotel, 104 years later. Library of Congress image, from the National Photo Company Collection.

Flags at Post Office building, Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. on Flag Day, 1913. Now commonly referred to as the Old Post Office Building, this is the lobby of the Trump Hotel, 104 years later. 1913 was long before the U.S. Flag Code went into law; how many Library of Congress image, from the National Photo Company Collection.

June holds only two days designated for flying the U.S. flag out of the specific days mentioned in the U.S. Flag Code, and six statehood days, when residents of those states should fly their flags.  Plus, there is National Flag Week.

Two Flag Code-designated days:

  • Flag Day, June 14
  • Fathers Day, third Sunday in June (June 18 in 2017)

Several states celebrate statehood. New Hampshire, Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia celebrate statehood; Kentucky and Tennessee share the same date.

  • Kentucky, June 1 (1792, 15th state)
  • Tennessee, June 1 (1796, 16th state)
  • Arkansas, June 15 (1836, 25th state)
  • West Virginia, June 20 (1863, 35th state)
  • New Hampshire, June 21 (1788, 9th state), and
  • Virginia, June 25 (1788, 10th state)

Additionally, Congress passed a resolution designating the week in which June 14th falls as National Flag Week, and urging that citizens fly the flag each day of that week.  In 2016 that would the week of June 12, which falls on Sunday, through June 18.

Flag-flying days for June, listed chronologically:

  1. Kentucky and Tennessee statehood, June 1
  2. Flag Day, June 14; National Flag week, June 11 to 17
  3. Arkansas statehood, June 15 (duplicating a day in National Flag Week)
  4. Fathers Day, June 18
  5. West Virginia statehood, June 20
  6. New Hampshire statehood, June 21
  7. Virginia statehood, June 25

Any resident may fly the flag any day of the year, under the etiquette provided in the Flag Code.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mike’s Blog Rounds at Crooks and Liars — thanks for the plug!

National Archives caption: This illustration entitled, “Flag Day - 1900”, by cartoonist Clifford Berryman, which appeared in the Washington Post on June 14, 1900, depicts the growth of American influence in the world as the European powers watch in the background as new century is ushered in.

National Archives caption: This illustration entitled, “Flag Day – 1900”, by cartoonist Clifford Berryman, which appeared in the Washington Post on June 14, 1900, depicts the growth of American influence in the world as the European powers watch in the background as new century is ushered in.

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Was Richard Feynman really an “unlikely leader?”

June 2, 2017

Richard Feynman, working with the Rogers Commission on the Challenger Shuttle Disaster, demonstrating effects of cold on the vital O-rings, with a glass of ice-water, a C-clamp and an O-ring. Open University film screen capture

Richard Feynman, working with the Rogers Commission on the Challenger Shuttle Disaster, demonstrating effects of cold on the vital O-rings, with a glass of ice-water, a C-clamp and an O-ring. Open University film screen capture

Interesting series of films from The Open University, on “unlikely leaders.” The film on Richard Feynman is a good introduction to his work in a few minutes.

Who the hell is “The Open University?” Their website offers a lot of free courses, but no clue about who finances the bunch, or even where it’s physically headquartered. I gather it’s a British group, but find little substantial information beyond that. Website copyright 2014; it’s got a modest track record.

Nice piece on Feynman. But is it a stealth piece to sucker people in? Feynman would be cautious about jumping on the Open University bandwagon. Or is Open University straight up? Enjoy Feynman.

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Memorial Day 2017 – Fly your flag today

May 29, 2017

Image and caption from Time: A Boy Scout salutes at the foot of a grave after volunteers placed flags in preparation for Memorial Day at the Los Angeles National Cemetery on May 28, 2016. Richard Vogel—AP

Image and caption from Time: A Boy Scout salutes at the foot of a grave after volunteers placed flags in preparation for Memorial Day at the Los Angeles National Cemetery on May 28, 2016. Richard Vogel—AP

Fly your flag today for Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day, flags should be flown at half-staff until noon, then raised to full staff (and retired at sunset).

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

Just a reminder: When posting a flag to half-staff, it should be raised with gusto to full staff, then slowly lowered to the half-staff position.  On Memorial Day, when changing the flag’s position at noon, simply raise the flag briskly to full staff.  At retirement, the flag should be lowered in a stately fashion.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. You may use this photo.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. You may use this photo.

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