In the spirit of Flag Day, celebrated this month to commemorate the creation of Old Glory, kids who visit the Autry Museum of Western Heritage on Saturday will get a chance to create a flag of their own--just as Betsy Ross did 222 years ago.
Well, not exactly as Betsy Ross did it. Her creative urges were circumscribed--red, white and blue cloth being the only materials allowed. At the Autry event, billed as a "hands-on workshop--create a unique flag for your home," kids will be supplied with the traditional materials--plus ribbons, leather, glitter, sheets of colored plastic--even some confetti.
These materials will be provided free at the workshop, but participants must first pay the regular museum admission price to get to the gallery where the event is taking place. ($3 for children 2-12, students and seniors $5, adults $7.50.)
"This is a make-and-take activity for the kids," explained Stacey Canon, a museum education aide who will conduct the workshop. "And depending on how creative and elaborate the kids want to be, they may take five or 10 minutes or much more."
Back in 1776 (on June 14, to be exact), Betsy Ross was given some instructions, probably verbal, from Francis Hopkins, a member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Saturday, Canon will give children at the workshop a "template," sort of a blank frame to fill in, along with a set of "activity instructions." Canon's goal is to encourage kids' self-expression.
To further stimulate their imaginations, kids will also be given a map of various exhibits at the Autry Museum, some of which have historical flags. One exhibit, titled "Culture y Cultura," devoted to Mexican American history, contains flags that will remind kids the Stars and Stripes has not been the only national banner to fly on California flagpoles.
Accompanying the museum map will be a written explanation of Flag Day, a national observance made official in 1949 by President Harry Truman.
The American flag has gone through lots of design changes since the Founding Fathers decided that the 13 original colonies needed a single national banner. Kids will discover, if they don't already know, that among the original design ideas were a snake, a pine tree and a crescent moon. (The moon idea was the contribution of people in the colony of South Carolina, who used it on a banner during their fight against the British occupation of Charleston in 1776.)
Canon says she will also explain to the kids that "flags of different nations have flown over different parts of America." And she will show the children a few to help stimulate ideas for their own flags.
An interesting historical sidelight is that the first European flag to fly over California territory was not Spanish, but Russian. The Czar sent settlers to the the West Coast 200 years ago, traveling under the flag of the "Russian American Company."
This situation alarmed the King of Spain, who responded by sending the legendary Friar Junipero Serra to set up a chain of Catholic missions in California--under the flag of Spain--to dramatize to the world that California was Spanish turf.
"Fabulous Flags," kids workshop to create a flag of their own for Flag Day, Saturday, 1:30-3:30 p.m., materials provided, Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 4700 Heritage Way, Los Angeles, free with admission to museum, (213) 667-2000.