Sunday, 26 April 2015

mullets & barry

Although a lot of convenient and flattering myth-making goes into every nation’s founding fable—and America is certainly no exception ranging from the preternatural, the chimerical to Lincoln ate here, the incarnations and the avatars of the so called Continental Colours go through an interesting evolution to arrive at the archetypal flag that’s credited to seamstress Betsy Ross.

Early banners were mostly ravaged Union Jacks set on a barry (striped) background, captured during the US war for independence, cobbled together and something like the modern flag of the state of Hawaii—however, raising these improvised standards led the British to believe that the rebels were surrendering on more than one occasion. Statesman Benjamin Franklin, whom also nominated the turkey as the national bird though the bald eagle was more favoured, suggested the Don’t Tread on Me design but was not deemed dignified enough for the ages. A standised and recognisable symbol had to be decided on. And while it is debatable whether Miss Ross’ contribution to the complete achievement which was conceived by a professional armourer was limited to making the mullets (stars—which were not very popular heraldic devices at the time) five-pointed rather than the six-pointed variety the menfolk in conference believed to be easier to stitch, not being practised in the art apparently, or whether she took further liberties with the design, the national flag did become her exclusive bailiwick, holding a virtual monopoly on its production for the first decade of the fledging republic.