The Story of the American Flag Through Stamps

Captain Driver and Old Glory

G Rate (32-cent) red Old Glory stamp
This G-Rate Old Glory stamp was issued December 13, 1994.

Captain William Driver famously named an American flag “Old Glory” when he was presented with a flag of twenty-four stars in 1831. As he was setting sail on one of his voyages, the banner unfurled in the ocean crosswind, and Driver is rumored to have exclaimed “Old Glory!” Little did he know that the phrase would become a popular nickname for his flag.

In 1837, Driver retired with the flag to Nashville, Tennessee. While Captain Driver enjoyed his peaceful retirement, his “Old Glory” became famous in and around Nashville. This peace was not to last. When Tennessee seceded from the Union at the start of the Civil War, Confederate soldiers were determined to search out and destroy Driver’s beloved flag. However, repeated searches revealed not a trace of the regal flag. In 1862, Union forces captured Nashville and raised the American flag, albeit a small one. Those who remembered “Old Glory” asked Captain Driver if it still existed. Driver returned home, and began to rip out the seams of his bedcover. As the stitches were torn, onlookers were amazed to see the twenty-four starred “Old Glory” in between the cover and the bedding. It had been under the Confederate soldiers’ noses the entire time! Captain Driver received the honor of replacing the smaller banner with his beloved flag. The soldiers saluted and cheered. One Union army regiment, the Sixth Ohio, even adopted the nickname “Old Glory” as their own.

The story of one man’s devotion to the American flag remains an inspiration to all that call the flag “Old Glory.” In 1994, the US Postal Service issued the ‘G” rate stamps, a non-denominated stamp issued before a rate increase. The Postal Service lamented that it had not used the flag as a subject with the “F” rate issues from a few years earlier. With the release of the “G” rate stamps, the Postal Service enjoyed using the moniker and longtime legend of “Old Glory” to tell the patriotic story, and imbue the stamp with feeling.

World War II Patriotic cover
A World War II patriotic cover featuring "Old Glory" and the first verse of "The Star Spangled Banner."