Betsy Ross and the American Flag

Flag Trivia

Who cut the American flag into pieces and was honored for doing it?

Robert Peary, who left pieces of the flag scattered at the North Pole.


Excerpt from "The North Pole," by Robert E. Peary

Of course there were some more or less informal ceremonies connected with our arrival at our difficult destination, but they were not of a very elaborate character. We planted five flags at the top of the world. The first one was a silk American flag which Mrs. Peary gave me fifteen years ago. That flag has done more traveling in high latitudes than any other ever made. I carried it wrapped about my body on every one of my expeditions northward after it came into my possession, and I left a fragment of it at each of my successive "farthest norths": Cape Morris K. Jesup, the northernmost point of land in the known world; Cape Thomas Hubbard, the northernmost known point of Jesup Land, west of Grant Land; Cape Columbia, the northernmost point of North American lands; and my farthest north in 1906, latitude 87 6 in the ice of the polar sea. By the time it actually reached the Pole, therefore, it was somewhat worn and discolored.

Is it ever appropriate to fly the flag upside down?

Yes, but only in an emergency. It means "Help Me! It's an emergency! Call the police! I am in dire trouble and need immediate help!"

What is done with worn or outdated flags?

Flags are used until they are worn out and then they are destroyed, preferably by burning.

Francis Scott Key wrote the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the back on an envelope. What is the source of the music for it?

The music is from an old English drinking song called "To Anacreon in Heaven."

The American flag first flew over a foreign fort in what country?

Libya — over Fort Derne, on the shores of Tripoli.

What is an expert on flags and their history called?

A vexillologist

Shipwreck" Kelly (1885-1952) was famous for sitting for long periods of time. What did he have to do with flags?

He set many flagpole-sitting records. He sat for 49 days on one flagpole. He once estimated that he spent a total of over 20,000 hours sitting on flagpoles. Flagpole sitting was a craze started in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1929.

Associated Press photo of Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly (1893-1952) sitting on a flagpole in College Park, Md., in 1942

Click for Flag merchandise