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The Flag, the Poet & the Song: The Story of the Star-Spangled Banner Paperback – December 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452283450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452283459
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,923,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

New York Times reporter Molotsky offers a light history of the American flag and "The Star Spangled Banner," as well as the people involved with making both. In the "little-known-facts" genre, Molotsky dances through the evolution of the song from an old English drinking song to its adoption in 1931 as the national anthem. And he gives us facts about the flag that challenge our long-held understanding of its genesis. For instance, Betsy Ross was not the flag's first seamstress, and the flag did not always have 13 stripes. There are also amusing tidbits, such as the largest American flag, which weighed in at 3000 pounds and measured 505' 225'. Personalities play a big part in Molotsky's treatment, with President and Dolly Madison, Francis Scott Key, and Mary Pickersgill (the real Betsy Ross) taking major roles. The War of 1812 gets well-deserved coverage as the historical scene for the unfolding of the anthem. Amusing but not scholarly, this history is recommended for public libraries. Bonnie Collier, Yale Law Lib.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This absolutely irresistible slice of Americana tells the unabridged and demythologized story of the flag that inspired a relatively obscure lawyer to pen a patriotic poem that would seize the collective imagination of the American public. To provide the whole truth and nothing but the truth, Molotsky plays historical detective, investigating the creation of the flag that was to be flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, the life and times of the poet whose immortal words were set to the tune of an English drinking song, and the gradual evolution of this essentially unsingable song into the national anthem. Placing these interrelated tales firmly into social and historical context by providing an enlightening overview of the much-misunderstood War of 1812, the author provides a comprehensive analysis of a uniquely American cultural phenomenon. Chock-full of humor, irony, and fun facts, this delightful tribute to the flag will appeal to a variety of inquisitive readers. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By lvkleydorff on March 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
What starts out as a witty account of the origins of "The Star Spangled Banner" and the text to it, continues into repetitions and ends with endless reprints of Supreme Court decisions and congressional hearings. Points go to the author for reminding us of the half-forgotten war of 1812 and for giving us a good overview. Pity he could not stop in time.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Every American knows the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner," because every American watches sporting events. Some of us know the words, although we can't sing it unless we are singers of special talent, because of the reach of range of the notes (the "red glare" of the rockets makes most people's voices break). And every American who knows some history knows that Frances Scott Key, watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry from the shore of Baltimore Harbor, saw the Star-Spangled Banner flying over the fort, and wrote the poem bearing that name on the back of an envelope, and since then it has been our national anthem, sung before baseball games starting from the last century. All this history is pleasant, but it is not at all true.
Setting the record straight about our most famous flag and its anthem is the purpose of _The Flag, the Poet, & the Song: The Story of the Star-Spangled Banner_ (Dutton) by Irvin Molotsky, a fun look at an important part of American history. It is important history because of the emphasis we place on our sacred flag, and it is important to see how we often get that history wrong. It shows how in the War of 1812, the British looked invincible advancing onto Baltimore after burning Washington (which they did in retaliation for the Americans unjustifiably burning Toronto). Frances Scott Key, a lawyer, was commissioned by President Madison to negotiate freedom for a captured American, and thus was on a British ship when the bombardment of Fort McHenry took place. He did not see the huge Star-Spangled Banner under bombardment; a smaller, less valuable one was flying in the rain, but the big one was raised the next morning.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian M. Ayres on February 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Just to preface the review: I was sitting in a restaurant reading this book when the waitress asked me what I was reading. I explained the book, and she said who was on the cover. I said it was a picture of Francis Scott Key. She said, "Oh, the man they named the Florida Keys after."
For those Americans who don't know their history, particularly the often untold truths of the War of 1812 and the contentiousness over our national anthem, this book is a perfect place to start. It's short, informational and at times very humorous. Molotsky brings the reader history and current debate on topics such as flag burning and how to preserve that wonderful flag that flew over Fort McHenry.
I learned some new things in this book, and if the response from the waitress is any indication, this country is in need of a few more history lessons. This a short read but the value cannot be underscored.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kent Braithwaite on September 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As an author of a novel in its initial release that addresses, among other themes, the essence of what makes an American an American, I genuinely enjoyed Irvin Molotsky's THE FLAG, THE POET, & THE SONG. Mr. Molotsky, a semi-retired newspaperman, spins a wonderful tale about the history of our national anthem. This book is light. It is a popular history. It is amusing, yet it is most enlightening. Mr. Molotsky presents a history of the War of 1812, which led directly to Francis Scott Key's composing of the poem that became the song. He discusses the American invasion of Canada (yes, we did invade Canada) and the burning of Toronto (then York) that led to the British infamous torching of Washington (I bet that was in your history books). He also paints a portrait of Francis Scott Key (a distant relative of F. Scott Fitzgerald whose masterpiece THE GREAT GATSBY was briefly called UNDER THE RED, WHITE, & BLUE--which I used for the title of this review) who reluctantly joined the militia during the war. Mr. Molotsky additionally explains the compostion of the poem, its linkage to a British drinking song, and its evolution into the national anthem with the final two words "Play Ball!" THE FLAG, THE POET, & THE SONG is a informative book. It is well-written. I recommend it highly.
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