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The History Of American Icon’s By Adam B Essay, Research Paper

There are many American patriotic symbols (icons) that represent the better things we love most about our country. The “Star Spangled Banner”, Uncle Sam, The Pledge of Allegiance, the American Flag and the Statue of Liberty, to name just a few. These symbols of democracy each have a story of their own.

The “Star Spangled Banner” is our national anthem. It was originally a poem written by Francis Scott Key, a Georgetown lawyer, during the War of 1812. After an attack on Washington, Key heard the British had carried off an elderly and much loved town physician, Dr. William Beans, of Upper Marlboro. He was held prisoner on the British flagship, Tonnant, in Chesapeake Bay. Everyone in the town feared he would be hanged so they asked Key for help. He arranged to have Col. John Skinner, an American agent for prisoner exchange, go with him and arrange for Dr. Beans release. They were successful but the three of them had to stay on the ship overnight because of the shelling by the British of Fort McHenry, one of the forts defending Baltimore.

When morning came, Key was so happy to see the American Flag still flying over the fort that he wrote poem entitled “The Star Spangled Banner”. He wrote most of the words while still on the ship but wrote the last few stanzas after the three were released and had returned to Baltimore.

The poem became famous because it was printed on handbills and passed out in the city the next day. The poem was originally sung to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven”, an old English drinking song. The music for the “Star Spangled Banner” was composed by John Stafford Smith, a British composer.

The Army and Navy recognized “The Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem long before was officially made the National Anthem of the United States by Congress in 1931.

Uncle Sam was originally a real person, but his character was developed over a long period of time by a variety of political and commercial artists. The real person was Samuel Wilson of Massachusetts who was a drummer boy and then a soldier in the Revolutionary War. After the war ended, he moved to Troy, New York where he established and built up a very successful meat-packing business. Because of his friendly and honest business dealings, he soon earned the affectionate nickname of “Uncle Sam”.

During the War of 1812, Wilson provided pork and beef to the Army troops camped on the outskirts of Troy. He shipped this food in barrels labeled “U.S.” – i.e., for the Army and not for retail sale. The abbreviations U.S. and USA were not in general use then, so when a Federal inspection crew visited Wilson’s plant in October, 1812, they asked a worker what U.S. meant.

He said that it stood for his boss, “Uncle Sam”. After that, the soldiers and everyone else started using the term “Uncle Sam” to mean the federal government. And, it became sort of an unfriendly nickname for it.

This eventually led to caricatures by cartoonists and other political satirists. Sam Wilson was very tall and very thin, but the original Uncle Sam was depicted as short and fat, wearing a black top hat and tails. Later he was dressed more patriotically, in the colors of the U.S. flag. Eventually, Uncle Sam became tall, thin, and bearded as political cartoonists began to model him after Abraham Lincoln.

As time passed, Uncle Sam turned into a more positive embodiment of the government and spirit of the United States. He was used during World Ware II to sell war bonds. In 1961, Congress passed a resolution recognizing Uncle Sam as a national symbol. To this day he is a sometimes serious, sometimes humorous symbol of our country.

Every school child in the United States learns the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag upon entering school. In its original form, it was composed by Francis Bellamy of New York, a Baptist minister who worked for social and patriotic causes. In 1892, as a member of the national Columbus Day committee, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus coming to America, he was specifically asked to create something special for the nation’s public school children.

Bellamy wrote the “Pledge of Allegiance” and it was originally published in Youth’s Companion, a national family magazine for youth that was published in Boston. The magazine had the largest national circulation of its time with a circulation of 500,000. After first appearing in 1892, it became a Columbus Day tradition to recite it and children started reciting it in school also.

For a long time, there was some controversy about who authored “The Pledge of Allegiance” Some thought James B. Upshaw created it. However, in 1939, the U. S. Flag Association determined that Bellamy was the author.

Originally, the Pledge went: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” Later, eight words were added to Bellamy’s original. In 1923, the U.S. Flag Association replaced “my flag” with “the flag of the United States of America”, as an attempt to unify the country.

In 1942, the Pledge of Allegiance was officially recognized by Congress and added to the Flag Code of the United States.

One year later, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance could not be required or accepted as a loyalty oath because to pledge allegiance to anything other than God interferred with some religious beliefs. So, while the Pledge is recited often in schools, it is not required that a student do so if it goes against his or her beliefs.

Later, another change was made. “My flag” was changed to “the flag of the United States of America” because it was thought that the children of immigrants might confuse “my flag” for the flag of their homeland. The phrase “Under God” was added by Congress and President Eisenhower in 1954 at the urging of the Knights of Columbus.

Initially, most people held their hand over their hearts when reciting the Pledge. In war years, people began using a military salute, stretching out an arm with the palm of their hand facing up when they reach the part about the flag. That practice quickly changed because it resembled a Nazi salute.

The Pledge of Allegiance is not recited as much as it used to be but is still an important American patriotic symbol. It is said while standing and usually while facing the American Flag.

The American Flag’s exact origin is uncertain. During the Revolutionary War it became apparent that there was a need for a distinctive American flag. On June 14, 1777, the first “stars and stripes” were adopted by a resolution of the Continental Congress. The resolution stated: “That the flags of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternately red and white, and that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation”.

There is considerable doubt as to the origin of the design of flag. Some think Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, designed and made the first flag of this pattern, but that has never been proven. Some think Francis Hopkinson, a well-known colonial political leader from New Jersey, designed the flag. That has never been proven either.

Legend has it that the symbolism of the flag was described by General George Washington, in these words: “We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty.”

So, the original flag had thirteen stars in a circle on a blue background, seven red stripes, and six white stripes. With the passage of time, new states were admitted to the Union. In 1794, Congress passed an act providing that the National Flag should have fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, representing two newly admitted states to the Union. They were Kentucky and Vermont.

By 1818, it became evident that adding more stripes and stars for each additional state was going to be difficult. Therefore, Congress passed an act providing that the flag would have thirteen stripes and twenty stars, and that in the future a new star but no new stripe would be added for each new state admitted to the Union. By 1912, the flag had forty eight stars. Star forty nine was added with the admission of Alaska to the Union in 1959. Hawaii was admitted to the Union in 1960, added the fiftieth star.

In a little less than 200 years, “The Stars and Stripes” has increased its constellation from thirteen to fifty bright and shining stars. It reflects was has happened to the American Union, growing from thirteen colonies to fifty states.

The Statue of Liberty which stands at the entrance of New York harbor was a gift of friendship from the people of France in 1884 to the United States in celebration of the 100th anniversary of American independence.

It was designed and built by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The actual 151-foot statue is a woman holding a book and a glowing torch . “Lady Liberty” as she is often called, wears a crown with seven spikes that stand for the light of liberty shining on the seven seas and seven continents. In her left arm she holds a tablet bearing the date of the Declaration of Independence in roman numerals. A chain representing tyranny (unjust rule) lies broken at her feet.

Originally, the Statue of Liberty was a memorial to the alliance between France and the American colonists who fought for independence in the Revolutionary War in America. As stated before, it was also a symbol of friendship between France and the United States. However, the Statue of Liberty became an important national symbol during World War I. It appeared on all sort of advertisements to sell war bonds to help pay for the war. It has also been a very important of freedom for immigrants as they pass by it entering the United States.

Today, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of the United States and an expression of freedom to people all over the world. More than two million people visit it every year and it continues to inspire people across the world, as in 1989 when the Chinese students at Tianammen Square made a model of the Statue of Liberty to symbolize their revolution.


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