Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Old Glory

Search for a Flag Day photo

Old Glory

On one of the busiest days I've had in a while, I was in four counties today, shooting four different assignments. I started on the Main Line with a community garden, then was on to Chester County to shoot a recently sold property, before driving back to North Philadelphia for a teacher-of-the-year winner.

In between, I was asked to look for a Flag Day feature photo.

Driving on Goshen Road I came accoss the Bartram Covered Bridge. I guess in all my years here I'd never been on this major road, and I'd never seen this covered bridge - the only one left in Delaware County. It looked cool enough that I doubled back around and parked on a side road.

There was still bunting up from the bridge's 150th anniversary celebration at the beginning of June, so I thought it might even work as a Flag Day. It just needed some sort of human element.

As has happened more often than not when I am driving and visiting historic/scenic/sites, I was the only one there. On previous road trips retracing Lewis and Clark's Trail through the west, or driving along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground - Route 15 from Gettysburg to Charlottesville, Virginia, I would sometimes wait an eternity for a fellow traveler to get out of their car and somehow wonder through the frame in my viewfinder.

But this time, just me. No amount of wishful thinking could conjure up a biker or hiker, canoeist or kayaker. Not even a hiker or curious commuter. 

Back in Philadelphia, I was headed Bodine HS in Northern Liberties still looking for American Flags, when I spotted the "76" on a rooftop deck.

 

It was on a side street, so same story - no passersby. Then out came Kevin Finklea carrying his ladder. He's the landlord - and an artist - and no, it wasn't his flag, he said when I asked. Then, as if he felt he had to excuse their aberrant behavior, offered up that his tenants "always have one kind or another up...they're from Ohio."

ps: The flag, as I later offered to my kids in one of my frequent history lectures, is known as the "Bennington Flag" because it's believed to have been carried by Vermont's "Green Mountain Boys" at the Battle of Bennington during the Revolutionionary War. Some historians think the flag was made for the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1826. It's also known as the "Fillmore Flag," as legend has it passing on through several generations of Fillmores, including the President.

btw: The flag I fly at home is the 15-star, 15-stripe "Star Spangled Banner Flag." It's named that because it inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that's now the national anthem. It's also the flag Lewis and Clark carried.

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at tgralish@phillynews.com.

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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