Long May It Wave

The Story of the American Flag Through Stamps
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4-cent 48-Star Flag stamp

Virtual Exhibit

The American Flag and Marquis De Lafayette

3-cent Marquis de Lafayette stamp
The 3-cent stamp commemorating the 175th anniversary of Lafayette's arrival in America was issued June 13, 1952.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution adopting the colors and design for the flag of the United States of America. The men and women of the Revolutionary War period initiated a reverence for the flag felt by Americans ever since. The story of the American flag is the story of the United States through its tribulations and celebrations. This online exhibit explores, through the lens of American postage stamps, the history of the national flag; the day that celebrates its birth, 'Flag Day' and the many connections the flag has to historic events and everyday life.

The creation of the American flag coincides with another historical event, the arrival of a nineteen year old French army officer, Marquis de Lafayette. At the time very few people considered Lafayette’s arrival remarkable or worthy of note. However, Lafayette soon became one of George Washington’s closest confidants and one of America’s most famous Revolutionary War heroes.

In 1824, Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States for a thirteen month visit at the invitation of President Monroe. During his visit Lafayette addressed a joint session of Congress, becoming the first foreign-born citizen to do so. He was well received during his visit to each of the then twenty-four states.

With his departure for France, Lafayette would never again return to his adopted country. But the country came with him; he was later buried with soil he had taken from Bunker Hill. After a life dedicated to liberty, Lafayette remains to this day an inseparable part of American history as the American Flag maintains a continuous physical presence at his final resting place. This fact is even more remarkable considering the flag continued to fly over Lafayette's grave even during the Nazi occupation of Paris from 1940-1944.

Created by Research Intern Amanda Hagy and Collections Specialist Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum.

We extend our thanks to Research Coordinator Christine Mereand, for her careful assistance in reviewing and editing the text of this virtual exhibition. We would also like to thank our fellow team members MJ Meredith and Marty Emery for their support throughout our work on this project.