Original "Old Glory" returns to Tennessee
NASHVILLE, TENN. -- The original 1820s Old Glory flag, made famous during the Civil War, is returning to Nashville for the first time in more than 100 years to be displayed at the Tennessee State Museum.
The exhibit, entitled Old Glory: An American Treasure Comes Home, is free to the public and will also feature various historic flags and replicas of famous U.S. flags. The Old Glory flag, which measures 10' x 17', is on loan to the State Museum from the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
The nickname for the United States flag, Old Glory, was originally attached to a flag made in 1824 for a young sea captain, William Driver (1803-1886) from Salem, Massachusetts. When first gazing at the flag, Driver was supposedly moved to call it "Old Glory", a name he used to describe the flag throughout his lifetime.
Old Glory gained its notoriety during the Civil War when Driver, who had moved to Nashville in 1837 after his wife died, raised the flag at the State Capitol after Nashville was captured by the Union Army.
"We are extraordinarily proud to have Old Glory return to Nashville where its fame originated before spreading across America," said Lois Riggins-Ezzell, executive director of the Tennessee State Museum. "This is a singular opportunity to see a treasured artifact of Tennessee and U.S. history, and we hope the people of Tennessee and surrounding states will take advantage of this rare chance."
Old Glory was originally flown from Driver's merchant ship in the 1820s/1830s. When in Nashville, he hoisted it across the street at each national holiday and on his birthday of March 17. As the Civil War drew near and sentiment for the Confederacy grew in Nashville, Driver, a staunch Unionist, reportedly hid Old Glory by having it sewn into a quilt. The war divided Driver's family as two of his sons fought for the Confederacy, one being killed at the Battle of Perryville in October 1862.
In February 1862 Nashville became the first state capital in the Confederacy to fall to Union troops. Upon the arrival of Union soldiers, Driver removed Old Glory from its hiding place and flew it from the State Capitol.
The newspapers of the time ran stories of Old Glory being brought out of hiding. Before long, people began referring to all U.S. flags as Old Glory.
Originally a 24-star flag when it was created for Driver, Old Glory was re-sewn around 1860, adding 10 more stars for the states that had joined the Union after the flag was originally constructed. An anchor was also added on the canton of the flag, which referred to Driver's experiences as a sea captain.
Old Glory remained in the Driver family until 1922 when it was presented by his daughter, Mary Jane Roland, to President Warren G. Harding. The flag was in a very delicate condition, and it essentially remained in storage until 1981 when Tennesseans raised the funds necessary to begin conservation efforts.
A second stabilization effort was just completed on the flag so that it could be shipped from the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and displayed at the State Museum .
The Tennessee State Museum is located at Fifth and Deaderick streets in downtown Nashville. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays. Parking is available at paid lots during the week or free on weekends in state employee parking lots to the west of the State Capitol.