Although there are many national holidays celebrating different moments in the history of the United States, and honoring those who have nobly served the country, the biggest is undoubtedly the Fourth of July, which marks the official independence of the American colonies from England and its establishment as the United States of America. So that seems like a good moment to think about the most enduring symbols of America. These are just some of the markers of America that are immediately recognizable.
The American Flag – Flags are usually iconic symbols in most nations, and the flag of the United States is an even more ubiquitous symbol due to the wide cultural reach of America, as well as its striking visual appearance. Although the number of stripes has varied throughout history, it was established in the early 19th century that there would be thirteen stripes, to represent the original colonies, with the first stripe being red. The first flag featured thirteen stars, again for the original states, in a circle, with a new star added for each new state.
Uncle Sam / The Bald Eagle – There are numerous icons throughout the history of the United States, but two of the most recognizable are Uncle Sam and the Bald Eagle. The establishment of the bald eagle as the national bird dates back to the founding of the nation. Although other nation had previously used the eagle as a symbol for their nation, the bald eagle was native to North America and was chosen because of its lengthy life and immense strength. On the other hand, Uncle Sam is a symbol that has evolved over time. Based on a man named Sam Wilson, the character “Uncle Sam” started appearing in political cartoons in the mid-1800s. The image that has ultimately been cemented of Uncle Sam was the Army posters painted by James Montgomery Flagg for World War I.
Monuments – There are certain landmarks around the country that have come to be so recognizable that they can virtually serve as visual markers of the United States. Some of these are memorials, such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Mount Rushmore and, more recently, the Vietnam Memorial. Other landmarks are historical items that have taken on lasting historical significance, such as the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty. Although these landmarks are now mainly tourist destinations, they are immensely treasured and closely guarded national sites.
Songs/Pledges – Throughout its history, citizens in the United States have enjoyed showing their patriotic spirit through reciting oaths and songs. The Pledge of Allegiance, which originated in a boys’ magazine, has been ingrained in the memories of most Americans. Likewise, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 and declared the national anthem in 1931, is an instantly recognized song, even if people occasionally forget the words. There are countless other patriotic songs, but some of the most famous include “God Bless America,” written by Irving Berlin in 1918, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” a march written by John Philip Sousa in 1896, and, more recently, “This Land is Your Land,” written by folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1943.