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Old Glory (U.S.)

Last modified: 2024-04-13 by rick wyatt
Keywords: old glory | united states | william driver |
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[William Driver's image by Pete Loeser, 7 April 2024
based on this Smithsonian Museum photo.

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Introduction: The Legends Behind the Flag "Old Glory"
Traditional Story

     This famous name was coined by Captain William Driver, a shipmaster of Salem, Massachusetts. His mother and her circle of sewers presented him with this beautiful twenty four star flag in 1824. Twice it went around the world with him. In 1831 Captain Driver left on one of his many voyages aboard the Brig Charles Doggett little realizing would climax with the rescue of the mutineers of HMS BOUNTY. This became the flag he flew when survivors of the infamous Mutiny on the Bounty were picked up. As the banner opened to the ocean breeze for the first time, he exclaimed "Old Glory!
He retired to Nashville in 1837, taking his treasured flag from his sea days with him. In 1860, the Captain's wife and daughter took the flag apart, cut off the raveled and frayed seams, replaced the old stars and added new ones to make 34 total (the correct number for the date) and an anchor embroidered in the lower right corner of the canton. The last was to commemorate Captain Driver's sea service.
     By the time the Civil War erupted, most everyone in and around Nashville recognized Captain Driver's Old Glory." When Tennessee seceded from the Union, Rebels were determined to destroy his flag, but repeated searches revealed no trace of the hated banner. Then on February 25th, 1862, Union forces captured Nashville. The Captain was on hand to greet the Ohio Regiment when they became the first to enter the city and they followed the Captain home, where he began ripping at the seams of his bed cover. As the stitches holding the quilt-top to the batting unraveled, the onlookers peered inside and saw "Old Glory!" Captain Driver gently gathered up the flag and returned with the soldiers to the capitol. Though he was sixty years old, the Captain climbed up to the tower to hoist his beloved flag. The Sixth Ohio Regiment cheered and saluted - and later adopted the nickname "Old Glory" as their own, telling and re-telling the story of Captain Driver's devotion to the flag we honor yet today.
     In 1873, the Captain gave the flag to his daughter, Mrs. Mary Jane Roland, who in turn gave it to President Warren G. Harding in 1922. The President deposited it with the Smithsonian Institution, where it remains to this day.
     Captain Driver's grave is located in the old Nashville City Cemetery, and is one of the places authorized by act of Congress where the Flag of the United States may be flown 24 hours a day. A caption above a faded black and white picture in the book, The Stars and the Stripes, says that 'Old Glory' may no longer be opened to be photographed, and no color photograph is available. Visible in the photo in the lower right corner of the canton is an appliquéed anchor, Captain Driver's very personal note. "Old Glory" is the most illustrious of a number of flags - both Northern and Confederate - reputed to have been similarly hidden, then later revealed as times changed.
Phil Nelson and Dave Martucci, 19 June 1998

Modern Questions

Actually... an American whaler discovered the last of the mutineers, John Adams, and the descendants of the other mutineers living on Pitcairn Island. However, they weren't "rescued" -- their presence was duly reported, they were left alone, and the British government ultimately pardoned Adams in 1825. In 1831, the British government temporarily relocated the population of Pitcairn to Tahiti because of rampant disease on the island.
From we learn that: "The Pitcairners did not feel at home on Tahiti. ..... A number of attempts to return them to Pitcairn failed for one reason or another, until Captain William Driver of the Salem whaler 'Charles Doggett' arrived at Papeete and offered to take them back to Pitcairn ..."
For more on the subject, read the research by Asa Gordon.
Joe McMillan, 8 August 2002

There was a significant problem that came to light in the 20th century concerning this flag. A descendent of the good Captain maintained that the original flag was eaten by a mule long ago. The museum in Salem that claimed it had the original Old Glory disputed that statement. And the flag that the Smithsonian has on display as "Old Glory" has 34 stars, plus an anchor in the lower fly corner of the canton. (They say that the Captain kept "renewing" his flag upon the addition of states to the Union.)
Nick Artimovich, 22 February 1996

Description of Old Glory

The first four horizontal rows of stars have seven each. The fifth row has six stars, arranged in columns under the first six stars of the upper rows, and the anchor is in the column below the seventh stars in the upper rows.
Devereaux Cannon, 21 August 2005

Possible Variant of Old Glory

[William Driver's Old Glory flag] original image by Rick Wyatt, 12 January 1999

This original 1999 FOTW "Old Glory" image showed this flag as having only 6 stars in the middle row with a vertical anchor at the end of the last row of 7 stars, while the flag now kept at the U.S. Smithsonian Museum clearly shows 7 stars in the top four rows with the 6-star row placed at the bottom and the anchor tilted at about a 45-degree angle (as pointed out by Devereaux Cannon, 21 August 2005). There is also some more contrary information about the flag-maker Captain William Driver and the making of this flag (and possible duplicates) on the Mystic Stamp Company Website.
William Garrison, 30 March 2024

The original suggested variant was drawn twenty-five years ago based on the then available data.
Pete Loeser, 7 April 2024

Possible Variant of Old Glory

[William Driver's speculative image by Pete Loeser, 7 April 2024

This speculative illustration, also based on the star pattern of the Smithsonian Museum photo, factors in the possible aging of the white stars and stripes returning Old Glory to traditional red, white and blue colors.
Pete Loeser, 5 April 2024

I'd recommend that the main FOTW image match the one at the Smithsonian, since that's the one whose appearance is documented.
Peter Ansoff, 6 April 2024

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