Friday, July 14, 2006

Who Created the First US Flag of 50 Stars?

I found this fun short article at As the site allows for the reproduction of articles by blogs and other websites, I am going to go ahead and reprint it here. The author of the article is Beth Gabriel.

This article is about Robert Heft. He spoke at my high school when I was a senior. He was actually a pretty good speaker and I still remember the story told here in this article from his speech.


Who created the US Flag that we salute at every parade?

Robert Heft, a then 17 year-old high school sophomore from Ohio created our current American Flag of 50 stars.

When was this flag created?

Robert Heft created his 50 star, hand sewn, US flag in 1958 prior to Alaska and Hawaii being admitted to the Union.

What drove Robert to create this new flag?

It all began as a high school project assigned in 1958 in Lancaster, Ohio, for his teacher, Mr. Stan Pratt. Each student’s assignment was to create a project of their own choosing that would be graded for creativity.

What prompted Robert to create a flag as his project?

Robert was always interested in government and politics and was aware of the possibility of Alaska and Hawaii becoming the next new states. While other kids at his high school struggled with ideas on what to create for their projects, Robert knew right away that he wanted to create the first 50 star flag.

How did Robert go about designing this one-of-a-kind flag?

Being an astute student of history, Robert knew that the design of the US Flag had not changed in since 1912. He wanted to change the design of the flag so carefully that it would be almost unnoticeable.

How did Robert go about creating this one-of-a-kind flag?

Unbeknownst to his family, Robert took his parent’s 48 star US Flag and began cutting the flag apart and rearranging the stars and adding 2 stars so that there would be 50 stars in total. His design featured five rows of 6 stars (30 stars) alternating with four rows of 5 stars (20 stars). Robert spent over 12 hours one weekend arranging and sewing this new combination of stars.

Was his teacher, Mr. Pratt amazed and impressed by Robert’s newly created 50 star US Flag?

No, Mr. Pratt told Robert that his project lacked creativity and told him, “anybody can make a flag”. Mr. Pratt gave Robert a B minus for his project but told him that he would raise his grade if Robert could get Congress to adopt this new American Flag design.

Was Robert discouraged by this challenge from his teacher?

No, Robert accepted this challenge and took his flag to his congressman, Rep. Walter Moeller, who worked to get the new 50 star design accepted after Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union.

Was this original, hand sewn, 50 star US Flag ever used or was it just used as a model?

Yes, it was first flown on July 4, 1960 at the US Capitol dome with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Congressman Moeller and Robert Heft in attendance. It has flown over every US state capital building and has flown over the White House under five administrations.

Where is Robert’s original US Flag of 50 stars?

Robert Heft still owns this original first flag of 50 stars and has turned down offers of up to $350,000 to sell it.

Is that the end of Robert Heft’s story?

No, shortly after he completed his 50 star high school project, he went on to create a 51 star US Flag in the event that Puerto Rico ever joined the Union. The 51 star flag has six rows of stars, starting with a row of nine and alternated by rows of eight to total 51 stars.

What is the moral of this story?

If your child comes to you with a wacky, seemingly crazy, creative idea – let them run with it. It may turn out to launch their life long career, as it did for Robert Heft.

Beth Gabriel is a successful Webmaster and publisher of She provides more US Flag History and US Flag reviews that you can read on her website from the comfort of your home at 2:00 am!

Article Source:

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Homework from History Is Elementary

You can sure tell that elementaryhistoryteacher at History is Elementary is a K-12 instructor. Can you believe she just handed out summer homework to her readers? She claims this is in celebration of her 100th post but I smell an elaborate scheme to pick up new back links to her blog and up her Technorati ranking. :]I'll play along but this is my 812th post. Just see what homework I will have in store for elementaryhistoryteacher when I hit 1000!

Here is the assignment I selected:

Create a post or comment that includes something about 100 miles, 100 dollars, 100 years, and 100 pounds. You can write about each in a separate paragraph or combine all four things together, but all four categories need to be in the same post.

Of course, I will up the difficulty a bit and make each item history related.

A. 100 Miles

In 60 AD, Boadicea (Queen of East Anglia) led a revolt attributed to corrupt tax collectors in Britannia. The revolt allegedly killed all Roman soldiers within 100 miles. Nero crushed the revolt and reestablished Roman rule. (Source: A History of Taxation.)

B. 100 Dollars

In 1861, the United States Federal government was offering 100 dollars as an enlistment bonus to raise 300,000 soldiers requested by President Lincoln to fight separatist rebels in the south. (Source: The Civil War in America.)

C. 100 Years

The 100 Years War between France and England lasted more than a hundred years. However, since some historians can not count well I can include this! (Source: Hundred Years' War 1337-1453.)

D. 100 Pounds

In 1657, Massachusetts passed a law levying a fine of 100 pounds for bringing a Quaker into the colony. (Source: Excerpts from Mary Dyer and Companions, Martyrs.)

And like that, I am done. Please do not forget to give me an A+ please.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

''Witch of Pungo'' pardoned by governor after 300 years

''Witch of Pungo'' pardoned by governor after 300 years. It only took three centuries but some justice has finally been served in the case of falsely convicted "witch" Grace Sherwood.

The Virginia Pilot online notes, "The Witch of Pungo might need a new nickname. On the 300th anniversary of her trial Monday, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine exonerated Grace Sherwood, who had been convicted of witchcraft. Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf read the announcement to the 40 or so who clustered at Ferry Plantation House for a re-enactment of the trial, shortly before proclaiming Grace Sherwood Day. "

Grace Sherwood was accused of withcraft in 1706. She was tried by water. That is, they threw her bound into the river. The theory was that if she drowned she was innocent but if the water rejected her she would then be guilty. Fortunately for Sherwood, she survived.

In this case, justice delayed is indeed justice denied. Sherwood spent eight years in jail after her "trial." The pardon is nice but...

Her are some sites with more information on Grace Sherwood:

Grace Sherwood - Witch of Pungo

Grace Sherwood

Grace Sherwood, the witch of Virginia

1930 Newspaper Article: Witch Trial of Grace Sherwood

History of North Korea

History of North Korea. This is a brief essay which looks at the history of the Asian nation of North Korea. Recent events indicate that the North Korea will probably continue to have an eventful history.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Officially Democratic People's Republic of Korea, (Korean - Choson Minjujuui In'min Konghwaguk) country in East Asia. It occupies the northern portion of the Korean peninsula, which juts out from the Asian mainland between the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and the Yellow Sea. The country is bordered by China and Russia to the north and by the Republic of Korea (South Korea) to the south. North Korea has an area of 47,399 square miles (122,762 square kilometres)."

From the site:

In December 1945, a conference convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea. A 5-year trusteeship was discussed, and a joint Soviet-American commission was established. The commission met intermittently in Seoul but deadlocked over the issue of establishing a national government. In September 1947, with no solution in sight, the United States submitted the Korean question to the UN General Assembly. Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea quickly evaporated as the politics of the Cold War and domestic opposition to the trusteeship plan resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate nations with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems. In 1950, the North launched a massive surprise attack on the South.

As noted, differences developed after World War II over the issue of establishing a Korean national government. Elections were held in the South under UN observation, and on August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea was established in the South. Syngman Rhee, a nationalist leader, became the Republic's first president. On September 9, 1948, the North established the Democratic People's Republic of Korea headed by then-Premier Kim Il Sung, who had been fostered and supported by the U.S.S.R. North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. The United Nations, in accordance with the terms of its Charter, engaged in its first collective action and established the UN Command (UNC), to which 16 member nations sent troops and assistance. Next to South Korea, the United States contributed the largest contingent of forces to this international effort. The battle line fluctuated north and south, and after large numbers of Chinese "People's Volunteers" intervened to assist the North, the battle line stabilized north of Seoul near the 38th parallel.

Armistice negotiations began in July 1951, but hostilities continued until July 27, 1953. On that date, at Panmunjom, the military commanders of the North Korean People's Army, the Chinese People's Volunteers, and the UNC signed an armistice agreement. Neither the United States nor South Korea is a signatory to the armistice per se, although both adhere to it through the UNC. No comprehensive peace agreement has replaced the 1953 armistice pact; thus, a condition of belligerency still exists on the peninsula.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tips on How to be a Partisan Historical Hack

Wilson at the Elfin Ethicist has a great post up on How to write tendentious history. It lists 14 tips for successfully using bias and spin when looking at history. Several commenters have added some additional good tips as well.

This list is well worth reading. I think I just might submit it to the next History Carnival. The Carnival of Satire may want this too...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Oliver Law

Oliver Law. The Spanish Civil War drew combatants from all over the world. International brigades were formed by men from a variety of nations to fight on the side of Republican forces. One of these brigades was the Abraham Lincoln Battalion which was composed of American volunteers. The battalion is believed to be the first American military unit to be racially-integrated and was at one point commanded by Oliver Law, who may have been the first black man to lead white American combat troops.

Oliver Law was born in 1899 in Texas. He served in the American Army during World War One. He joined the Communist Party USA during the Great Depression and became an activist on labor issues.

Wikipedia notes, "Strongly opposed to Fascism, he led demonstrations against Italy's occupation of Ethiopia (Second Italo-Abyssinian War), and in 1936 he travelled to Spain to join the forces fighting against Francisco Franco and the Nationalists. An outstanding soldier with considerable military experience, he served in a machine gun company and soon became the commander of the battalion. It was the first time that an African American commanded white American troops."

The blogged site reports this quote from Oliver Law after the offensive at Jarama River in 1937,"We came to wipe out the fascists. Some of us must die doing that job. But we'll do it here in Spain, maybe stopping fascism in the United States, too, without a great battle there. "

Law is one of those men who died in the doomed Republican cause. He died on July 9th, 1937 attacking Mosquito Ridge in combat near Madrid. Harry Fisher, the battalion runner reported, "He was the first man over the top. He was in the furthest position when he was hit by a Fascist bullet in the chest."

Oliver Law fought on the losing side of a civil war far from his home expressing a belief in a cause (communism) that would fail to take root in the USA. Despite this, he remains an interesting historical note. It does indeed appear that he was the first black man to lead whites into combat in an American military unit. I am surprised no one has a made a movie about this guy yet. (Or maybe someone has and I am just not aware of it.)