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The Stars & Stripes Are Forever: Around The Frame

Recently, on the way to Indiana Beach with my brother Richard, we got to talk about how we’d like our lives to be celebrated after we die. Richard is a very patriotic guy, so it wasn’t surprising he wants patriotic music like “The Star- Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” to be played or sung. We could not think of a better place to hold his memorial than the Memorial Park pavilion since it is: dedicated to the World War I veterans of Fort Wayne/Allen County, centrally located and he wants chicken from Zeb’s Chicken Shack that can be carried in to support a small, local, and minority owned business. His cremains will be buried in the Concordia Garden’s scattering garden next to a cornfield in homage to his love for his maternal grandparents whose farm we often visited. Richard will be remembered for his kindness to people, love of turtles, willingness to lend a helping hand, and his sense of humor.

A 1875-1900 pieced quilt featuring striped stars.

While we were discussing song choices, “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Phillip Sousa the “March King” was brought up. We’d both heard it played many times by marching bands but can’t recall it ever being sung. My research revealed Sousa and his wife were returning on an ocean liner from England when he learned his best friend and band manager, David Blakely, had died on Nov. 7, 1896, of apoplexy. Grief stricken, Sousa composed the march in his head and wrote his notes down upon his return. The march is rather lengthy, and it begins “Let martial note in triumph float and liberty extend its mighty hand A flag appears ‘mid thunderous cheers, The banner of the Western land. The emblem of the brave and true Its folds protect no tyrant crew; The red and white and starry blue Is freedom’s shield and hope.”

It was first performed by the Philadelphia Academy of Music on May 14, 1897, to much acclaim. Following an Act of Congress later that year, it was officially adopted as the “Official March of the United States of America.”

Interestingly, in the early 20th century, in theaters and other venues “The Stars and Stripes Forever” was known as “the Disaster March.” The house band would play it to alert the staff of an emergency without panicking the audience into a stampede to the exits. It would hopefully give the staff enough time to organize an orderly exit. Circus bands hardly ever played it with the memorable exception of the 1944 Hartford, Connecticut circus fire that killed at least 168 people and injured hundreds.

Now, over a century and a quarter later it is still considered the best and most popular of patriotic marches. It is revered around the world as a masterpiece of American patriotic music. So, the next time you’re going to a patriotic concert, be sure to download the lyrics and watch YouTube videos so you can earn a gold star for being able to sing along with the band! God Bless America!

Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts. If you have a textile you’d like to share, contact her at 260-515-9446 or bornagainquilts@frontier.com

Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer