This Day in History
First Praised as Old Glory

Old Glory Raised
March 17, 1824

There was no city quite like Salem in the early years of the Republic. A town of eight or ten thousand, it had some claim to be the commercial capital of the country. From its spacious harbor merchant ships sailed out to the West Indies and the Mediterranean, to Archangel and the Baltic, around the Horn and around the Cape; and traders in Canton and the Pepper Islands thought the flag of Salem that of an independent nation. It had some claim, too, to be considered the cultural capital. Among its citizens it boasted Samuel McIntyre, the architect; Timothy Pickering, the statesman; Joseph Story, the jurist; William Bentley, the fountainhead of Unitarianism; Nathaniel Bowditch, whose Practical Navigator was the bible of every pilot on the seas; Nathan Dane, who helped write the Northwest Ordinance; Nathaniel Hawthorne, who immortalized the city in his novel; and, of course, the galaxy of merchant princes without equal in American history - the Grays, the Crowninshields, the Peabodys, the Ornes, the Sillsbees, and the Derbys.

William Driver was a typical product of this society. Captain of a merchantman at age 21, he was at home in all the seas. It was on the morning of one of his voyages in 1824 that friends presented him with a new flag for his topmast. As Driver ran it up, he saluted it with the words “I name thee Old Glory.” The name caught on and became widely accepted.

When Captain Driver retired from the sea, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee. With the coming of the Civil War, he remained a staunch Unionist, displaying “Old Glory” whenever he could. When General Grant captured Nashville in February 1862, it was William Driver’s flag that floated from the top of the capitol building.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.