Rihanna: American Oxygen

In Rihanna’s latest music video, the Barbadian immigrant uses imagery of the American flag to unpack its meaning in terms of American dreams and nightmares, ultimately declaring “this is the new America / we are the new America”.  Jake Flanagin in Quartz calls it “a surprisingly powerful statement on immigration” (surprising given Rihanna’s reputation for non-political dance music); […]

The Trouble with Icons

Here is a fascinating 37-minute documentary on the use — by photographers, artists, journalists, institutions, and ordinary citizens — of the American flag in response to war/terrorism, from British film makers David Dunnico and Cat Gregory. They compare two cases: the 1945 attack by US Marines on Japanese-held Iwo Jima out of which came Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photo, and the […]

Ron English – Flag of Baby America

Bucky Turco at ANIMALNewYork reports on a large US flag mural by “interventionist” Ron English that’s gone up on the Houston Bowery Wall (an outdoor exhibition space) in Manhattan.  The stars feature star-eyed (or rather star-eye-socketed) skulls, and the stripes are reproductions of English’s Propaganda images of ad and currency parodies.  The baby Hulk in the middle? “The […]

A Vexillological Hapax Legomenon

Back in 2010 linguist Geoffrey Nunberg brought an interesting perspective to bear on the Pledge of Allegiance, which had been in the news when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled, 2 to 1, that “under God” could stay, despite the apparent bridging of church vs. state.  He invokes the linguistic lingo hapax legomemnon, “an […]

The US Flag in the 21st Century

31 October 2000 American hip hop duo Outkast release their fouth studio album, Stankonia.  The iconic album cover consists of Big Boi and André 3000 posing in front of a huge, black-and-white US flag with inverted stars: the funkified flag of Stankonia (which actually was manufactured and hung on the wall in their Atlanta studios).  (For more, […]

The US Flag in the 20th Century (2nd half)

19 September 1952 The Adventures of Superman begins airing on American television, following an undocumented alien immigrant as he fights “the never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way”.  The famous opening sequence ends with George Reeves standing before a US flag, somehow briskly flying in outer space.  In less than 20 years, fiction will become […]

The US Flag in the 20th Century (1st half)

4 March 1907 In Halter v. Nebraska the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of two businessmen for “desecrating” the flag by using its imagery on the label of their “Stars and Stripes” brand beer. 4 July 1912 The US adopts the 48-star flag, recognizing the admission of New Mexico and Arizona earlier that year.  This marks a turning point in US flag […]

The US Flag in the 19th Century

14 September 1814 Aboard the HMS Tonnant, at “dawn’s early light” attorney Francis Scott Key sees a large US flag still flying over Fort McHenry despite its overnight bombardment during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.  He publishes his poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry” in the American and Commercial Daily Advertiser seven days later.  Both […]

The US Flag in the 18th Century

1 May 1707 The Acts of Union take effect, creating the Kingdom of Great Britain and the making the red, white, and blue King’s Colors its flag. This flag and its Red Ensign variant were influential in American flag-making. 21 September 1737 American civil servant and likely designer of the 13-star flag Francis Hopkinson born in Philadelphia.  He famously […]

Money Flags

Money occasionally makes its way onto flags, as a promotion for a particular currency, a political statement, a commemoration of a ransom, or as a design exercise. For examples of all of these possibilities, see below.