The Mercantile Library Celebrates Flag Day
This week marks that time in the late Spring which honors Flag Day. June is a time when the azure skies unfold above, and that seems a perfect time to unfurl the red, white and blue with such a perfect backdrop. This piece of sheet music was a St. Louis imprint, a colorfully published version of the ”Prize Banner Polka." I have thoughts about these old dance tunes and how they were used for balls and parties great and small. The Mercantile’s first building had a huge third floor auditorium that could hold 2000 citizens. It was patterned on the old ballrooms that were the upper reaches of many a Victorian home--only on a mind-boggling scale. When the seats were put in storage on the second floor of the old library building, I imagined this music being played on a summer’s night with other polkas, schottisches, quick steps and waltzes. What a scene in frontier St. Louis!
“Prize Banner Polka by Sanderson, Respectfully Dedicated to All Our Lovers of Our Glorious Union”  St. Louis and Nashville, 1860.
We have also attached the first national appearance of the lyrics to our national anthem, which were published in the November issue of the Analectic Magazine in 1814. Francis Scott Key’s gussying up of an old English drinking song was starting to get traction in the Baltimore and Philadelphia newspapers after the War of 1812 was all over but a few stray shots. Thank goodness we don’t have to memorize all the extra verses! The first stanza says it all; an almost perfect, Lord Byron-esque poetic statement.
The first printing in a national publication of America’s National Anthem, “The Defence of Fort M'Henry” in the Analectic Magazine (November, 1814).
It is interesting that the first printed illustration of Old Glory was not in an American publication at all, rather in an obscure German treatise by Mathias C. Sprengel, the first summary of the American Revolution published in Germany. Sprengel was a geographer interested in everything about North America and the important events occurring there in his life.
The first image of the American flag ever published, in an early illustrated history of the American Revolution published in Germany by Mathias Sprengel, (Berlin, 1784).
Did Sprengel sense somehow that this flag would survive and stand up to the world powers at the time of its creation, that it would even be called to march into battle in the distant future against his own country twice, to end oppression and to bring about freedom, as it did on the fields of Gettysburg and Appomattox, a flag which at its very best waves over a nation which continues to evolve politically, in what scholars have long called or characterized, “the ongoing American Revolution?"  Happy Flag Day!
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