Flag Day; Pride Month

Note: I could not resist updating and reposting this essay from an earlier year ’cause they just won’t stop talking about B.R.

Betsy Ross was fake news. I hate to puncture your patriotic bubble over this one, but her story was entirely made up. Alternative Facts.

When I first started researching “Flag Day,” I fully expected to write about the circle of stars and the bars of stripes and was upset to be reminded – that it’s not true. Curse that biography I read about her in the second grade… say it’s not so!  Wikipedia has the details, or you can track down journal articles like this one on “Betsy Ross ‘Bit of Fiction’–The Flag'” in the The American Catholic Historical Researches, 6(4), 1910, which flatly states:

The New England Historical and Genealogical 1909… settles conclusively the Betsy Ross controversy claim to be legendary and without foundation, tradition based on tales from memory. Students and teachers should do all in their power to correct or eliminate, if possible, another bit of fiction United States.

“Betsy Ross ‘Bit of Fiction’–The Flag'” in the The American Catholic Historical Researches, 6(4), 1910.

Vexillologists tell us not to be fooled by these decrepit fictions. Vexillologist should be our word for the day!

Ross, by the way, was an upholsterer who did sew, but the details of how she created the design in a response to a George Washington request in 1776 were made up by an enterprising descendant, William Canby, who wanted to hawk fake artifacts on the Internet. (Or the Internet version in 1870, which was the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.) Since her house is now treated as a historical site and a cottage industry has sprung up around her name, his ploy worked.

The Grand Union Flag & the British East India Company

Now I am going to blow your mind. The flag below was the first flag of the United States.

20170614 union flag Rick Wyatt
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V is for Vikings

The Oseberg ship, a symbol of a different kind of trader. Wikipedia.

When you visualize “medieval traders of Persian textiles,” Vikings may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet the Scandinavians were masterful travelers who, despite their reputation for looting, were also supreme world traders. They had access to their own products from the Silk Road and navigated their own pathways into the heart of the world exchange that took place on the central Asian steppes. As much as some would like to debunk the idea, you can’t argue when the evidence is dug up a Norwegian back yard.

Where the Bodies Were Buried

The Viking ship above, called a karve, was discovered near a farm in Southeastern Norway at the beginning of the 20th century. (Discovered near a farm … hmm … perhaps that means a plow hit an immovable object one fine Osebergian spring morn?) A Swedish archaeologist took charge of unearthing the site in 1904-05. While precious metal items were missing, they did find two female skeletons and a big stash of goods still remained.

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C is for Camel

Bactrian camel photo courtesy zsl.org.

There is an old British joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Attributable to Sir Alec Issigonis (who originated the Mini auto), the last laugh might be on Sir Alec if he tried to cross the Asian deserts with only horses. While horses did originate and thrive in the grasslands of Asia, the camels always ruled the dunes, whether the sand was in the Sahara, the Gobi, or even the deserts of Australia. A Mini wouldn’t last very long trying to cross the Silk Road. Camels–in particular the Bactrian camels–were the ships that sailed across the Asian deserts.

The camel has a single hump;
The dromedary, two;
Or else the other way around.
I’m never sure. Are you?

Ogden Nash

The mnemonic to separate the two types of domesticated camels, the Bactrian from the Dromedary, is pretty simple. “B” has two humps, whereas “D” has one. The problem is remembering the mnemonic. Maybe after this post, we’ll all just remember the difference.

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