top of page

Origin of "Old Glory": 

William Driver's Flag

The story of the original Old Glory begins with the design of the American flag itself. The Continental Congress adopted the first official flag of the United States, often referred to as the “Stars and Stripes,” on June 14, 1777. It featured thirteen alternating red and white stripes symbolizing the original thirteen colonies, and a blue canton with thirteen white stars representing unity and a new constellation of states.

William Driver's flag was not the original design, but rather a unique interpretation that came to symbolize his deep love for his country. Born on March 17, 1803, in Salem, Massachusetts, Driver later became a merchant seaman and shipmaster. It was during one of his voyages aboard the Charles Doggett that he was presented with a flag by his friends. This flag, made by a group of young women in his hometown, bore twenty-four stars – a reflection of the number of states in the Union at that time. Driver was immediately taken by the flag's beauty and meaning, and he christened it "Old Glory."

William Driver's affection for his "Old Glory" was not limited to the sea; it became a symbol of his love for the United States and its democratic ideals. He proudly displayed the flag on his various voyages, earning him the nickname "Captain Glory" among his crewmates. In 1837, while still an active sea captain, Driver moved to Nashville, Tennessee, taking Old Glory with him.

The flag gained significant attention during the secession crisis leading up to the American Civil War. As tensions escalated and the southern states seceded, Captain Driver, a staunch Unionist, concealed Old Glory to protect it from falling into Confederate hands. He sewed the flag into a coverlet, hiding it beneath a mattress in his home. Despite the risks, he continued to harbor deep patriotism, and his flag symbolized hope and unity to those who knew its story.

After the Civil War, Captain Driver's original Old Glory gained even more prominence. He often showcased it in public events, including the dedication of the Tennessee State Capitol in 1897. It was during this event that he uttered the famous words, "I gave my best to my country. When it was in danger, I tore it from its fastenings and concealed it in the quilt of my bed."

Following Captain Driver's death in 1886, Old Glory passed through various hands and institutions, each committed to preserving its historical significance. In 1922, the flag was donated to the Smithsonian Institution by Driver's granddaughter. It underwent extensive preservation efforts to safeguard its delicate fabric and intricate design.

 

 

Additional Resources:

 

Origin of Old Glory

 

Smithsonian

How the Flag Came to be Called Old Glory

bottom of page