Post office to unveil stamps of a historic stripe in Baltimore

Postage series depicts U.S. flag through years

June 12, 2000|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The U.S. Postal Service will raise 20 U.S. flags at Fort McHenry on Wednesday. But rather than billow in the breeze, these tiny flags will stick to envelopes.

With Baltimore as host city, the Postal Service will release a set of 20 flag-themed stamps that detail the history of the American flag.

Suggested by citizens, the flag series has been in development for about three years. Einar V. Dyhrkopp, chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, will dedicate the stamps at a ceremony scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

The stamp release is part of Pause for the Pledge of Allegiance, perhaps Baltimore's largest Flag Day event, sponsored annually at Fort McHenry by the Baltimore-based National Flag Day Foundation.

Flag Day festivities

Flag Day events at Fort McHenry will include a band concert and flyover by the Maryland Air National Guard's Thunderbolt Jets of the 104th Fighter Squadron.The program will conclude about 9:30 p.m. with a fireworks display.

Pat Perluke, project manager for the National Flag Day Foundation, said the U.S. Postal Service asked the group to hold the stamp unveiling because it has held Flag Day events at the fort for 21 years. "The significance to us is that the Star-Spangled Banner is one of the stamps being introduced.

"We're very fortunate to have Fort McHenry right in our back yard, and the Star-Spangled Banneris the Fort McHenry flag," she said. "This is the flag that inspired Francis Scott Keyto write `The Star-Spangled Banner' in 1814."

Anthem's inspiration

Key was on a ship watching the fierce bombardment of Fort McHenry and was inspired to pen what became the country's national anthem when he saw the flag waving in the morning.

In addition to the Star-Spangled Banner, the stamps represent various stages of the flag's evolution. One of the stamps features the Continental Colors flag, which was used by George Washington's army in 1775. Other stamps display regional and military flags.

The minihistory lesson that the stamp series provides was researched by Whitney Smith, executive director of the Flag Research Center in Winchester, Mass.

David Martucci, a flag expert based in Washington, Maine, reviewed Smith's research, a practice the post office requires before designing new stamps.

Martucci explains on his Web site that early U.S. flags did not have one specific design.

After 1777, Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes, which is one of the designs on the soon-to-be-released stamps. Because few of the flags have official names, the names that appear on the stamps either describe the flag design or place the flag in a historical context.

History lesson

Martucci sees the flag stamps as an important learning tool for Americans.

"It's important to think about our flag because the flag and attitudes about it have evolved through the years," he said. "The Postal Service is trying to present some history in a way that most people will come into contact with."

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