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By Marge Knoth, Author, Activity Professional
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MARGE KNOTH
Author, Activity Professional
Valley Press Books
FEATURING TONS OF CRAFT AND BULLETIN BOARD SUPPLIES
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ABOUT MARGE

Marge Knoth attended Purdue
University and took her activity
director training at Indiana
University and her social
service at Ball State.  She is
the author of ten books for
activity professionals. Her
books have been used as
teaching guides in colleges,
trade schools, and in activity
director courses throughout the
U.S. and Canada. They have
won both national and state
awards from the National
Federation of Press Women
and Women’s Press Club of
Indiana.

Marge has written a monthly
column, "A Letter from Marge"
for Current Activities in Long
Term Care.  She has been
published in Family Circle,
Lady’s Circle, Women’s Circle,
Indianapolis Woman, Christian
Science Monitor, Event,
various Christian and craft
publications, and other
magazines and newspapers.
She wrote a weekly newspaper
column called “Do You
Remember?”, and wrote and
recorded a long-running series
of nostalgic radio
commercials.  Also, she is a
motivational speaker having
traveled the United States and
Canada speaking at many state
and province activity
conferences.  
To Order Books by Marge Knoth
CLICK HERE
Significant Symbols of the United States.
“Celebrate America” Series.
By Marge Knoth

What a great country we live in!  This land is your land.  This land is my land.  All of us,
regardless of age or generation born,  share the same great country.  So why not
“Celebrate America”?  One of the best ways to do that is to review our country’s brief, but
rich history.  So let us do just that, and then we will discuss how to use this material in
your activity program.

The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell did not start out as a national emblem.  Rather, the colony of
Pennsylvania ordered it from Great Britain in 1752 to celebrate their 50th anniversary as
a colony.  William Penn, who established Pennsylvania’s government before the
colonies united, believed in citizens having freedom to make laws and choose their
own religion.  Thus when the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the bell,
he ordered that a Biblical inscription be put on it: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the
land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).

The 2000 pound, 12-foot wide bell, made of  70% copper, 25% tin, and minimal
amounts of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold, and silver arrived by ship.  It was then hung in the
Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia.  Today the state house is called
Independence Hall.  Surprisingly, the bell cracked the first time it rang.  Rather than
return it to England, it was melted down and recast by John Pass and John Stow in
1753.  Their names are also on the bell.  The giant bell had an unpleasant ring, much
to the dislike of Pennsylvanians who had to listen to it.

In 1776, though, the nasty-sounding bell rang out with exciting news.  It declared to all
who heard that the 13 colonies were now declaring their independence from England.  
On July 4, 1776, at the birth of a new nation, the bell’s Biblical inscription became very
personal.

The next year British soldiers marched into Philadelphia.  To protect the bell f rom
British capture and destruction (they would use it to make bullets for themselves) it was
taken down and hauled to the basement of a church.  Unfortunately, it rolled off the
wagon in transport, possibly weakening the re-cast bell.  In 1778, at the end of the
Revolutionary War, the bell rang out in triumph.  It also heralded the signing of the U.S.
Constitution, and it rang in mourning for several famous Americans as they passed on.  
In 1826, the bell patriotically proclaimed the 50th anniversary of the signing of the
Declaration of Independence.  Twenty years later it developed a hairline crack once
again.  It rang during a celebration of George Washington’s birthday and at the funeral
of John Marshal, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  During one of those last


two ringings, some people reported that the tone of the bell grew higher and higher,
and then it just quit ringing altogether.

It was first called the Liberty Bell around 1830 by abolitionists who were trying to outlaw
slavery.  The message on the bell spoke directly to their cause.  When it would no
longer ring, the bell toured the nation by train, visiting expositions and fairs, hoping to
bring healing to some of the wounds inflicted by the Civil War.  In 1915, it made its final
trip back home to Philadelphia near Independence Hall where it rests on display today.

Uncle Sam
As everyone knows, the tall goateed man with the starred top hat, blue cutaway jacket,
and red and white stripe pants  is a symbol for the United States Government.  But
where did he come from?  There are different stories.  According to Linda Carson
Johnson’s book, Our National Symbols, the British, in the 1750, referred to colonists as
“Yankees”.  Colonists adopted that name for themselves, attached it to a British tune,
and made up the character of “Yankee Doodle”.  Johnson says the British also referred
to colonists as “Brother Jonathan”.  She points out that some people believe these two
characters merged into the figure we now know as Uncle Sam.

But here is a more common story of Uncle Sam’s origin.  During the War of 1812, there
was a meat packer named Samuel Wilson who was born in Arlington, Massachusetts
in 1766. He  grew up in Mason, New Hampshire, and then to Troy, New York.  He sold
meat packaged in large barrels to the U.S. Government.  Each barrel was stamped with
the initials “U.S.”.  When someone inquired what those letters meant another person
joked that they meant “Uncle Sam Wilson”.  The military thus began to say they were
eating Uncle Sam’s meat, and that they were employed by Uncle Sam.

In reality Uncle Sam Wilson, who died in 1854, looked nothing like the Uncle Sam
caricature we know.  The real Sam was clean-shaven and probably did not wear a top
hat.  Those features were added to the cartoon during the 1860s and 1870s.  On of the
best-known pictures of Uncle Sam is the World War I recruiter-poster painted by James
Montgomery Flag in 1916-17.   It depicts Uncle Sam pointing his finger and announcing,
“I want YOU!”  On September 15, 1961, the 87th Congress of the United States hailed
Uncle Sam Wilson as the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.

The Bald Eagle
In 1782, against Benjamin Franklin’s strong objection, the Bald eagle was accepted as
the emblem of the United States.  Ben Franklin felt the turkey, which ran wild in the new
nation, would make a better emblem.  He argued that the eagle was a “bird of bad
moral character” because it lives by  “sharpening and robbing”.  Congress felt the bald
eagle symbolized the courage and might and that it lived primarily in the United States
and Canada.

It is said the eagle was chosen because at an early morning battle of the Revolutionary
War, the eagles were unpleasantly awakened and flew over the fighting men giving their
blaring cries.  The soldiers supposedly declared, “They are shrieking for freedom.”

The bald eagle is not bald at all, but has a white head, unlike the European gray eagle.  
Named by the Colonist, they used the European word for white which translated into
“bald”.  Five-thousand years ago the Sumerians chose the eagle as their national
emblem.  Likewise did the ancient Romans, Emperors Charlemagne and Napoleon.
The eagle with outspread wings is found on our gold coins, the silver dollar, the half-
dollar, the quarter, and the seal of the United States.

The Great Seal of Our Nation
The Great Seal is a double-sided piece of cast metal that was adopted by Congress in
1782.  The front features a wide-spread eagle wearing a shield of 13 red and white
stripes and 13 stars on a blue background.  In the eagle’s right claw is an olive branch
and in his left claw is a bundle of 13 arrows.  The olive branch represents peace, and
the arrows suggest military might.  In his beak he carries a scroll with the motto, “E
Pluribus Unum” which means “from many, one”.  The back of the seal displays a
pyramid built with 13 rows of stone representing the original 13 states.  The stones
denote permanent strength.  On the lowest row of stones in Roman numerals is the
date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1776.  Over the pyramid is a
triangle with an eye inside.  This represents the all-seeing eye of God.  Above the
triangle is written “annuity coeptis”, Latin words which mean “He has favored our
undertaking”.  Beneath the pyramid are also Latin words “Novus ordo seclorum” which
means “a new order of the ages”.

Dr. Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson attempted to create a national seal
but failed.  Jefferson did come up with the declaration “E pluribus unum”.  The front-
facing eagle was drawn by the brother of a Philadelphia naturalist.  Soon the stars and
striped shield on the bird’s chest were added as were a crest above its head and a
cluster of 13 stars surrounded by bright rays extending to a ring of clouds.  William
Barton, the chief designer of the Great Seal, said the stars represented “a glory
breaking through a cloud”.  You can find both sides of the seal on the back of a dollar
bill.

The American Flag
The United States flag sends a powerful message to the world, a message of a free
nation, of individual liberty, of idealism, and of patriotism.  It tells of a nation that
welcomes all, a nation where one can climb from utter poverty to riches.


“Old Glory”, the affectionate name given to our flag in 1831 by Captain William Driver,
has seven red and white stripes, and 50 stars in a field of navy blue.  The red
represents valor, zeal, and fervency.  The white, hope, purity, and cleanliness of life.  
The blue represents the color of heaven, reverence for God, loyalty, sincerity, justice,
and truth.  The star itself represents dominion and sovereignty, and lofty aspirations.  All
the stars together, within the blue field (the union), stand for freedom held by each state,
except where they delegate it to the Federal Government.  Washington said of the flag’s
symbolism, “We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country,
separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the
white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty.” (5) Much evidence
suggests our flag was designed by Congressman Francis Hopkinson. (What
happened to Betsy Ross?)

The United States flag has undergone many changes over the years.  When Vermont
and Kentucky became states in 1791 and 1792, not only were two more stars added,
but two stripes as well.  This was the only time in history that our flag sported 15
stripes.  Congress soon realized that it was nearly impossible to keep adding a stripe
for each state, so in 1818, they passed the Flag Act which returned the flag to 13 stripes
which would continue to represent the 13 original states.  They decided that only a star
would be added for each additional state.

Though we think of the first flag as having a circle of stars on the blue background, the
first “official”  American flag featured 13 stars, much like today’s placement, three in the
first row, two in the second row,  three in the third, two in the fourth, and three in the fifth.  
That flag was adopted June 14 (today’s Flag Day) 1777.  The stars also stood for the
original 13 colonies.

United States National Flower
You may not be aware that our country has a national flower.  I wasn’t.  I couldn’t
remember learning about it in school, but now I know why.  It wasn’t until 1985 that the
Senate passed a resolution naming the rose as the “National Floral Emblem of the
United States.”  And the House of Representatives passed it in 1986.  Then President
Ronald Reagan signed it at an October 1986 ceremony in the Rose Garden.

Oh, there is so much information.  I could go one and on, but space does not permit.  
So let’s take a moment now and see how, as activity directors, we might use this
material in our programs.

Liberty Bell
1) Shop a replica or picture of the Liberty Bell.
Discuss the history of the bell.  
Ask if anyone came from Pennsylvania where it was first purchased.  
Ask if anyone has ever seen the Liberty Bell.
2) Measure off a 12-foot wide circle on the floor and mark it with masking tape.  
Use this to show how big the bell is at its largest part.
Discuss how much 2000 pounds is–a small car, perhaps.
Discuss how the crack came to be.
Discuss what metals the bell is made of.
3) Look up the scripture verse on the bell (Leviticus 25:10).
Discuss what it means to them.
4) Mold sugar bells.  Plastic bell molds can be purchased at most cake-decorating
supply stores.)
To two or three cups of white sugar add a few drops of water and a little food coloring if
desired, and mix a bit with your fingers tips to work the coloring into the sugar.  

Pack it tightly into small bell molds.  
Turn it out immediately onto a solid surface.  
Let dry a couple hours (till hard on the outside.)  
Then, very carefully scoop out the yet soft inside with a sharp knife.  
Let dry some more.  
These are hard bells, edible, and will keep almost forever in a sealed container.  
5) Invite a bell choir to play for your residents.  Discuss the sounds.

Uncle Sam
1) Consider renting an Uncle Sam Costume or blow up a picture of Uncle Sam.
2)  Show residents a copy the wartime poster with Uncle Sam pointing his finger and
saying,
“I want YOU!”  Discuss what feelings and memories this poster evokes.
3) Sing Yankee Doodle with residents.  Ask if any every heard of Brother Jonathan.
4) Discuss packing meat in barrels.  Ask if they ever stored canned meat in this way.
5) Make an “Uncle Sam” figure or picture in crafts.

The Bald Eagle
1) With a strong magnifying glass, study the eagle on the back of a quarter.
2) Bring in a statue, figurine, or a large picture of an eagle.
3) See if a bird shop or taxidermy shop might bring one in, alive or stuffed.
4)   Discuss an eagle’s characteristics: size strength, keen eye sight, white head, etc.
Talk about how the bald eagle got its name.
See who agrees with Ben Franklin that the turkey should have been our national bird,
and why.  
Ask if any every hunted wild turkey.
Discuss favorite turkey recipes.

The Great Seal of the United States
1) Study the Great Seal on the back of a dollar bill.  Use a strong magnifying glass.
This can be a group or one-on-one activity.  
Locate the striped shield and the olive branch and the arrows in his claws.  
Count the stars over the eagle’s head.  Ask:  What does that number represent?
What do the Latin words written on the scroll in the eagle’s mouth mean?
What does the single eye on top of the triangle represent?  
What do the Latin words under and over the pyramid mean?  
Did you know this Great Seal was on the dollar bill?

The American Flag
1) Have a scout troop present the colors.
2) Say the Pledge of Allegiance together.
3) Discuss how President Eisenhower in the 1950s added the words “under God”.
4) Show a large flag up close.  Have residents count the stripes and the stars.


Discuss other U.S. flags they remember.  
Talk about what each color represents.

I hope you will enjoy this series, “Celebrating America” as much as I have enjoyed
researching and writing it.  I’d appreciate hearing any thoughts or comments you have
on it, favorable or unfavorable.  Feel free to e-mail or write me.  

God bless,
Marge

References
1) Our Nation’s Symbols by Linda Carlson Johnson
2) The People’s Almanac by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace
3) These United States, Reader’s Digest Books
4) Family Encyclopedia in American History,  Reader’s Digest Books
5) History of Our Flag
http://suscity link.com/flag/history
6) Uncle Sam’s Place www.baldeagleinfo.com
7) The Liberty Bell www.nps.gov/inde//liberty-bell.htm
8) A Brief History of the American Flag www.bigriver.net/ourflag/eagle 9.html
9) American Bald Eagle Information www.baldeaglelinfo.com/eagle/eagle 9.html
10) Useless Knowledge www.uselessknowledge.com/explain/eagle.html