American Flags

A flag is a symbol of a country’s sovereignty. In fact, flags can go beyond mere symbolism and become the standard around which a nation and its people rally. The American flag is a source of immense pride to American citizens. The Stars and Stripes brings out the best in Americans and encourage them to do their bit for their nation. America has several flags, each with its own history and story to tell. In addition to the Stars and Stripes, each of America’s fifty states also has a flag of its own.

There is a story behind each of the flags – when and how they originated and what the symbols stand for. Apart from the 50 American states, there are also flags for US districts, territories and possessions. For instance, there is a flag for American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas, the District of Colombia, Guam, Micronesia, and the American Virgin Islands. Then there is the Presidential Flag and the Vice-Presidential Flag, and historical flags such as the flag of the Confederate States of America and the flags of the Revolution.

Unlike the flags of other countries, American flags are not meant to be waved only on special occasions – every American is free to wave the American flag at any time. Besides, in keeping with its tradition of freedom and liberty, America does not prohibit the use of its flags on items of clothing – even women’s lingerie can boast of the stars and stripes.

American flags can be made of various kinds of fabric – polyester, nylon, or various blends. Any material will do, so long as the person waving the flag has the right spirit.

American Flag History

Every flag has a history of its own and if one delves deep, a fascinating story comes to light. The American flag is no exception.

Nobody knows for sure who first designed the Stars and Stripes, though there are some commonly accepted stories about the origin of the flag. According to one school of thought, Congressman Francis Hopkinson was the man who designed the flag, but some historians believe that Betsy Ross, a seamstress from Philadelphia, was the one who designed the American flag.

It was not till June 24, 1912, that the proportions of the American national flag came to be prescribed. As a result, flags made before this year show different patterns of the stars and unusual proportions. But mostly, stars were placed in a straight row and had proportions more or less similar to the ones now accepted.

Several acts have determined the evolution of the American national flag. According to the First Flag Act, passed in 1777, it was established that the American national flag would comprise thirteen red and white stripes and thirteen white stars against a blue background. In January 1794, it had 15 stars and 15 stripes. In 1818, the flag had 13 stripes and one star for each state. In 1912, President Taft decreed that the stars should be arranged in six horizontal rows of eight each. He also came up with new proportions of the flag. In January 1959, President Eisenhower decided that the stars should be arranged in seven rows of seven stars each, horizontally and vertically. And in August 1959, Eisenhower again made changes – this time, he said that the stars should be in nine rows horizontally and 11 rows vertically. As of today, the flag has 50 stars and 13 stripes.

American Classic Car Insurance

The number of people involved in classic car collection is on the rise. This has made insurance companies realize that these unique and extraordinary cars need special insurance. One may insure a classic car with a regular insurance company, but may not receive the best offer that way. Hence, it is preferable to approach companies that specialize in classic car insurance since they offer a better coverage and a more nominal charge.

American Collectors’ Insurance has been America’s premiere supplier of classic car insurance ever since 1976. Various insurance policies underwrite different kinds of collector cars, including classic cars, antique cars, classic motorcycles, street rods and antique fire trucks. American classic car insurance companies follow certain specific guidelines that enable a car to qualify as a classic.

These specifications could include age of the motor vehicle depending on the state one resides in. In certain states, a classic collector car must be at least 15 years of age. To avail insurance, one may not be allowed to drive the classic car for more than 2,500 miles every year. One may be required to keep the classic vehicle in a garage and possess a clean driving record with at least 10 years of driving experience.

In America, a classic car owner may avail of an “Agreed Value Coverage”, which covers the full insured worth of a classic car. This involves agreement by both parties, i.e., insurer and the insured on the value of a classic car, which is written in the policy. In the event of a mishap, wherein a car is considered totaled, the company pays a previously agreed amount for the car.

In most cases, the price of classic car insurance is less than what one anticipates. This is attributed to the fact that a few American insurance companies have placed certain restrictions on cars that are insured. While deciding on an insurance policy, classic car insurance is much better than regular car insurance for a classified car. The owner must consider acquiring a quote from a business that specializes in classic car insurance in order to save a lot of money and also have the best security for their investment and collectible.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz is an old prison, which was used as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, a total of 29 years. It is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California and when it was opened to the public from 1972, it has become a very famous historic and tourist site. The National Park Service, as a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, now maintains the abandoned prison.

Alcatraz Island was also the first long-term Army prison. During the 1800s, Civil War and Spanish American War Prisoners were the first inmates to arrive on the Island. Later on, due to its isolated location and the freezing San Francisco Bay waters, the authorities considered Alcatraz as an ideal place for holding dangerous prisoners.

Initially, Alcatraz was just another Federal institution but the prison started gaining fame after it began housing notorious criminals like George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Robert Franklin Stroud, Alvin Karpis, Henry Young and Al Capone. Criminals who could not be controlled by other Federal institutions were also incarcerated here.

The average number of inmates in Alcazar was around 260 and approximately 1545 total men imprisoned here during the 29 years of its operation. There were escape attempts but there is no official record if any of them had been successful. A few prisoners disappeared but were all presumed drowned in the San Francisco Bay waters.

After the prison was closed down in 1963, some Native Indians from 1969 to 1971 occupied it. Alcatraz is now a National Historic Landmark, opened to tours. Visitors to this place can also explore the oldest lighthouse in the west coast, remnants of early military fortifications and natural features such as rock pools.

Alcatraz Souvenirs

A souvenir is a product or an item bought from a particular place to serve as a reminder of that place. It helps relive the experience of the visit to the place. The Alcatraz prison off the coast of San-Francisco is one of America’s major tourist destinations. One can commemorate the experience of going there by buying souvenirs, either from the prison or from the various other places in the city.

Inside the prison complex, there are many shops that sell souvenirs to the visiting public. Ranging from key-rings to coffee mugs, a lot of different products are sold. One of the most popular souvenirs is the striped t-shirt. However, this seems to be a bit ironical, as the inmates of the island prison never wore striped clothes. Picture post cards and miniature models of the prison are also preferred by visiting tourists.

After a tour of the prison, when the visitors reach the gift shops, they usually intend to buy replicas or reminders of the highlights that they were most moved by. A pair of fake handcuffs or a book about the history of the island is some of the most popular souvenir items.

These souvenirs not only serve as a remembrance but can also be used to give as gifts. The different books available narrate the island’s history, and they serve as ideal gifts for history students. The picture postcards, on the other hand, are an interesting way of letting your near ones share your experiences. The fake handcuffs and guns are a special favorite among kids, who love to fancy themselves as guards and convicts after the tour.

With prices ranging from a few dollars to a couple of hundred dollars, the souvenir shops at Alcatraz have something to suit everyone’s pocket. Almost every tourist wishes to take a part of history back home. This is the main force behind the sale of these souvenirs.

Alcatraz Lighthouse

Alcatraz islands off the cost of San-Francisco have only two lighthouses. The foundation of the first was laid in 1852, and the entire structure became operational in 1854.

The first lighthouse was a two storey structure with a tower at the center. The fifty-foot structure was black and white and used a fixed third order lens. The need for this lighthouse can be attributed to the 1849 gold rush, which made west coast lighthouses a priority. By 1856, it was found that the San-Francisco fog often rendered the lighthouse ineffective. This led to the installation of a fog-bell. The bell was first rung by hand and later, thanks to a clockwork mechanism, the bell would ring automatically at prescribed intervals. Due to the growth of the city, a flashing fourth order lens had to be installed later, to help mariners distinguish the lighthouse from the city lights. This lighthouse was badly damaged in the 1906 San-Francisco earthquake, which cracked the lighthouse tower and toppled one of its chimneys.

The military prison on the island rendered the old lighthouse ineffective and by 1909, work started on a new lighthouse. With an eighty four feet tall tower and fog sirens at the front and back of the island, the new light house ran on electricity. In 1963, when the Alcatraz prison was finally closed due to the high maintenance cost, the lighthouse was automated.

The lighthouse stopped working for a short while in 1969, when electricity to the island was cut because it was being occupied by the natives. Power was restored after a while, with the help of a generator smuggled in by prominent San-Francisco citizens who were worried about maritime safety.

By 1972, the natives were driven out and Alcatraz became a national reserve. Today a 200,000 candle power lens is used in the old lighthouse.

Alcatraz Inmates

Alcatraz is famous for having housed some famous gangsters and criminals. Most of these prisoners were those considered dangerous, disobedient, escape risks and known for committing serious crimes such as murder, racketeering, smuggling etc.

Al Capone, one of the most notorious gangsters in America, was born in New York in 1899. He started his career in Brooklyn before moving to Chicago and had already been on the Bureau of Investigation’s “Most Wanted” list by the end of the 1920s. Al Capone was indicted and convicted for income tax evasion in 1931, and found guilty on five counts. In 1932, he was initially sent to an Atlanta prison, and then finally transferred to Alcatraz in August of 1934.

George “Machine Gun” Kelly Barnes, infamous for crimes, which included bootlegging, armed robbery and kidnapping had already been in the gangster business by 1927. In 1933, Kelly received life sentence for the kidnapping of Charles F. Urschel, a wealthy businessman and his friend Walter R. Jarrett. He was first incarcerated in Leavenworth, Kansas and was later transferred to Alcatraz in 1934 due to his constant escape threats.

Henry “Henri” Young started his career as a bank robber and committed murder in 1933, was found guilty and served time in different state prisons. In 1935 he was sent to the U.S. Penitentiary on McNeil Island in Washington State and was transferred to Alcatraz in the same year. In 1942, he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after he stabbed a fellow inmate to death. His life-story was made famous by the Warner Brothers movie, “Murder in the First”.

Robert Stroud, the “birdman of Alcatraz, was first convicted of manslaughter in 1909, after he brutally shot and murdered a bartender. Stroud was transferred from McNeil Island, Washington to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas where he began to develop a keen interest in birds. He was allowed to breed them and maintain a lab. He was transferred to Alcatraz in 1942 to spend the rest of his days. The story of his life was made famous by the movie, “the birdman of Alcatraz”, starring Burt Lancaster.

Alcatraz History

Alcatraz Island was declared a military reservation in 1850 and troops were permanently stationed by 1859. For almost eighty years Alcatraz Island was the site of the first fortress and military prison on the west coast. The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz were acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933. Soon, it became a federal penitentiary on January 1, 1934

Alcatraz was also the first long-term Army prison. The first prisoners to be brought in to Alcatraz were Civil War and Spanish American War Prisoners during the 1800s. With the number of inmates increasing everyday, the prison structure was also extended and renovated. By the 1920s, the three-story building was almost at full capacity.

Due to its isolated location and the freezing San Francisco Bay waters, the authorities considered Alcatraz as an ideal place for holding dangerous prisoners. Criminals like George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Robert Franklin Stroud, Alvin Karpis, Henry Young and Al Capone are some of the most famous inmates to claim residence on Alcatraz.

Alcatraz operated for a full 29 years and during that time, there had been no known case of any successful escape attempts. Most escapees were shot dead or presumed drowned in the San Francisco Bay waters. In 1962, three prisoners – Clarens Anglin, his brother John and Frank Morris – disappeared from the premises and were never found. But nobody knows if they ever reached the shore.

On March 21, 1963, when the prison was closed, Alcatraz had already accommodated 1033 prisoners. From November 1969 until June 1971, the American Indians inhabited the island. Since October 1972, Alcatraz has become a historic site and part of the “Golden Gate National Recreation Area” – supervised by the National Park Service, which is now open to tours.

Airsoft Machine Guns

There are many types of airsoft machine/automatic guns on the market. E ach type and model has a different range in power, magazine capacity, FPS (feet per second) and ROF (rate of fire). Electric powered airsoft guns or automatic electric guns (AEGs) seem to be the most popular because of their high power and ease of use. The three biggest manufactures of automatic airsoft guns are Tokyo Marui, Classic Army and ICS (I Chih Shivan Enterprise Co. Ltd.).

Tokyo Marui has one of the best and most popular airsoft machine guns and their products now dominate the world market. Prices range from 200 to 400 dollars, approximately. The more popular models include AK series such as AK47, AK47 Spetznatz; MP series like MP5 A4, Tokyo Marui MP5SD5, Tokyo Marui MP5SD6, Full Metal UZI, Tokyo Marui SG 552 SEALS and MP5K-PDW. Most of these models come with a rechargeable battery, 280–300 FPS (feet per second), and ROF (rate of fire) range from 600-900 rounds per minute.

Classic Army, the airsoft gun company based in Hong Kong, has also produced a range of popular airsoft machine gun models. The MP5 series is very popular with cost ranging approximately 250-300 dollars. For example, the Classic Army MP5SD6 cost s around 325 dollars and features full Metal Body, detachable silencer, Collapsible Stock, 8.4V mini battery, 315 FPS and 200 round high capacity magazine.

ICS, based in Taiwan is also another big manufacturer of automatic electric guns (AEGs) and airsoft machine guns. The company markets the AK, M16 and MP5 series of airsoft guns. Prices range between 250-350 dollars. One of the most popular is the ICS MP5A4 Tactical RIS which features 230 round magazine, Navy style lower receiver, tactical RIS, grip, &amp and a sight mount with an FPS of 310.

Airsoft Guns

Airsoft guns are sometimes classified as “toy guns,” because they are not real and are 1:1 replicas of actual firearms, usually made of plastic or metal that propel plastic pellets known as BBs using compressed air. A BB may be a 5-8 mm round or spherical pellet weighing 110-600 milligrams. Though an airsoft gun may not be real, its design and functional mechanism can be very similar to its actual counterpart.

The history of “airsoft” originated in Japan during the mid-1970s, mainly because it was illegal to own firearms by private individuals. The popular sport spread quickly to China, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines chiefly because of firearm restrictions in these countries. The popularity of airsoft guns in the United States and Europe began in the mid-1990s.

There are three main types of airsoft guns – spring-powered, gas-powered, and electric powered (or automatic electric guns). In spring-powered guns, the spring is cocked by pulling back the slide or bolt before firing each shot. Pressurized gases like propane and HFC134a refrigerant are used to propel BBs by gas-powered guns. Automatic electric gun uses electrical power from an onboard battery to operate.

Airsoft gun pellets come in different shapes, sizes and weights. Most airsoft pellets are normally 6mm spherical plastics. There are also starch-based biodegradable, metal coated, graphite coated, and steel pellets. Airsoft pellets typically weigh from 0.12 to 0.43 g. Airsoft pellets may not damage the skin but are extremely dangerous to the eyes. Goggles or other protective gear must be worn all the time while playing this sport.