A Brief History of the Flag Lapel Pin

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Obama now wears a flag pin on his lapel. Every day.

Short of wearing a stars and stripes onesie, the flag lapel pin is the quickest sartorial method for a politician to telegraph his or her patriotism. The origin of the flag lapel pin is murky, though it is by necessity linked the history of the American flag as a commonly used symbol. According to Mark Leepson's Flag: An American Biography, the "near religious reverence many Americans have" for our national symbol dates only to the Civil War era (not back to the Revolutionary War, as many assume) . Prior to that, few private citizens possessed or flew their own flags — it was limited to military and federal facilities. When the Confederates started winning battles early on in the War Between the States, Northerners began to fly the flag as a sign of pride.

Since then, flag imagery has been intricately tied to moments of crisis or conflict. Over the past four decades, Kit Hinrichs, one of the nation's top graphic designers, has collected more than 5,000 pieces of stars and stripes–related memorabilia. He says the flag lapel pins in his collection don't really date back before mid-century. "I don't think it was a common thing for men and women to wear before the Second World War," he says. "I certainly have jewelry from before then with flags on it — cufflinks and stick pins and tuxedo buttons and brooches — but not [many flag pins] before the '50s."

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Michael Davis - 7/9/2008

Get over it. This is precisely the reason "liberals" (read: Democrats) have been tarred with the unpatriotic label. Comparing the flag to the swastika, what ignorance. It's a symbol of, I'm presuming, your country, which I'm sure you love. Everyone says the pledge to the same flag; using it as a wedge issue in a campaign might seem frivolous, but Obamer's handlers should stick the flag on him and tell him to deal with it.
I understand he and his harridan wife have only been proud of this country starting recently. In the interest of getting elected he should just put up and shut up about the flag. It means a lot to quite a few Americans.

Randll Reese Besch - 7/4/2008

If you wear the flag lapel pin it is like saying you are part of the official group. The Nazis made wearing flag based armbands notorious during the last world war and I think to an extent a similar ethos is evoked here and now. Rampant nationalism isn't necessarily healthy. This flag fetishism I find repugnent because it is the Bill of Rights that makes this country not its flag. We could have any type of mixture of colors and symbols but the Bill of Rights is the bedrock of it. Change that and it changes the country though the flag could be unchanged. Substance over superficiality.