Two questions should arise when you read the title of this series. First, “Who am I?” That question is easy to answer. I am History Present. A good place to expand on that answer is this blog’s “About Page.” The second question should be, “When, exactly, are my times?” I was born on the 26th of March 1959. So, my times are from then, until now. If only life were that simple. You see, it is that date which brings me to question my very being. To which era do I belong? More precisely, to which U.S. flag do I belong?
This question did not arise until I began studying history on a serious level. Most people are aware that Alaska and Hawaii became States in 1959. But, when in 1959? Whether you like it or not, dates are important to history and six dates are critical to this story. As was previously mentioned, March 26, 1959 is certainly critical. The second is January 3, 1959. That is the date of Alaska’s admission to the Union.1 OK, cut and dry, there were at least 49 States in Union when I was born. But, what about Hawaii? On August 21, 1959, the third critical date, Hawaii was admitted to the Union.2 Yes! I can claim a certain uniqueness, I am a “49er”! Only those born between January 3 and August 20, 1959 can make this claim. I can always point to a 49-star flag as I claim my tie to history. Or can I?
Standing as a monument to power of unintended consequences, a Congressional Act in 1818 creates ambiguity in this matter. On April 4th, 1818 Congress established rules regulating the design of the U.S. flag. According to the Act, the flag would consist of “13 stripes and one star for each State.” Continuing, the Act declared that upon a new State’s admission to the Union that their star would not be added to the national flag until the following 4th of July.3 And there it is! While those born between January 3 and August 20, 1959 are legally 49ers, only those born between July 4, 1959 and July 3, 1960 can claim to be born under a 49-star flag. Those of us born between January 3 and July 3, 1959 were born under a 48-star flag even though the Union consisted of 49 States. I feel lost. What flag flew that wonderful day in March 1959? The same 48-star flag that had been flying for the previous 47 years.
Perhaps the Congress of 1912 better understood the power of their actions, Arizona’s and New Mexico’s admissions allowed for their star’s to be added on the same 4th of July.4 While many 49-star flags were produced in 1959, some evidence suggests that most non-governmental flag flyers simply waited one year to buy a 50-star flag.5 So, we, the “Half 49ers” can only look upon the “Complete 49ers” with envy. We have no visual indicator of our uniqueness. We would be lying If we attached a 49-star flag to anything connected with our birthdays. At least we are not “Half 50ers” (those born between Aug 21, 1959 and July 4, 1960). 1959 was truly the year chaos reigned. There were only 50 days that year on which the number of stars on the official U.S. flag correctly reflected the number of States in the Union.
We “Half 49ers” should take heart, there are notables among us. A short list of just March born “Half 49ers” include: Chris Hansen, Tom Arnold, Saul Anuzis, Donna Murphy, Aidan Quinn, Tamara Tunie, Michael Bloomfield, Lisa Holton, Danny Ainge, Renaldo Nehemiah, and Flavor Flav.6 If you are a “Half 49er”, a “Complete 49er”, or “Half a 50er” I would like to hear from you. Please provide a Comment below. Or, visit the HistoryPresent.com Contact Page and shoot me an email. Please, I am not launching a support group, just say hi, and proclaim your States/ Star status.
By History Present
Posted: Nov. 1, 2017