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Ella Virginia Houck Holloway and The Star-Spangled Banner

Information gathered from the Baltimore Sun and National Park Service

The effort to make the Star-Spangled Banner the official National Anthem of the United States began with the United States Daughters of 1812. The effort was spearheaded by Baltimore native Ella Virginia Houck Holloway (Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway)

Ella Virginia Houck Holloway (Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway)

Holloway was born in 1862 to Dr. Jacob Wever Houck and Susannah Porter in a house located next to the Shot Tower, which she claimed was the inspiration for her trademark tall “shako” hat. Holloway descended from an old Maryland family, her maternal roots stretching back to the 1664 settlement of Todd’s Inheritance in North Point. In 1892, she married Reuben Ross Holloway, a businessman who manufactured fire engines and extinguishers, and had two children with him.

In 1918, Baltimore’s Ella Virginia Houck Holloway (Sept. 3, 1862-Nov. 3, 1940), better known as Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway, a member of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 and president of the Maryland State Society, led a campaign to make the Star-Spangled Banner the official National Anthem of the United States. She approached many prominent persons and sought their support for the cause. Mrs. Holloway sent U.S. Representative John Charles Linthicum, of Maryland, a petition gathered by the Maryland Society, United States Daughters of 1812, which included signatures representing fifty-one individuals and forty-nine civic, fraternal, and patriotic societies. Linthicum was the first to introduce a bill on congress making the “Star-Spangled Banner” the National Anthem. However, the measure failed to gain much support. Linthicum introduced similar measures in every succeeding Congress.

A Letter from Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway to Charles Linthicum advocating
for the Star-Spangled Banner to become the National Anthem, 1918.
U.S. Representative John Charles Linthicum

As an effort to continue to secure endorsements, help from other organizations joined in. Other congressmen also introduced bills to designate the National Anthem, without success. Then, on Jan. 30, 1930, representatives from more than 60 patriotic organizations gathered in Washington, D.C., to press for another version of the bill introduced by Maryland Representative, Charles Linthicum. Linthicum’s bill finally passed in the House of Representatives on April 21, 1930, and in the Senate on March 3, 1931. President Herbert Hoover signed it into law that same day designating the Star-Spangled Banner as the National Anthem of the United States of America.

A civic gadfly, who some would call eccentric, Holloway was an imposing figure whose stature was certainly heightened by her trademark millinery. She always appeared in public wearing a tall shako, a cylindrical beaver hat with plume, that rose a foot above her head.

“The general contours of my hat and the Constitution of the United States must remain unchanged,” she told The Baltimore Sun in 1937. “Some persons said she loved it because it resembled the Shot Tower, next to where she was born,” observed the newspaper.

She considered herself an expert on the use and display of the flag and to that end toured the city to see that the flag was not improperly displayed.

Holloway was involved in numerous patriotic activities, including serving as chairman of the United Daughters of 1812’s Committee on the Correct Use of the Flag. She firmly believed that children should be taught to salute the flag every morning before breakfast, and that everyone should stand when the national anthem was played. Holloway also disapproved of using the flag emblem on clothing and other items, including birthday cakes. Some of her positions remain controversial in the present day .

Even though she was a successful woman who held powerful roles and had broad political and social connections, Holloway was opposed to women’s suffrage and jury duty. She believed that “women’s place is in the home.” However, on the topic of patriotism, Holloway was consistent in her drive to promote the flag and the anthem. In her statement to Congress on the Star-Spangled Banner bill, Holloway called for its passage as a unifying measure, to educate both newly arrived and longstanding Americans that there is only one “anthem for the people.”

She did have rather impressive credentials in this department, having served as chairman of the Committee on the Correct Use of the Flag of the United States Daughters of the War of 1812.

She was known as a fanatic about standing when seeing or hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” so a wag asked her what she would do if she heard it while in the bathtub. “Young man, I stand when I hear `The Star-Spangled Banner,’ ” she replied.

Holloway died in 1940 at the age of 78, and just as Linthicum described her, she will be forever known as “the lady who is in favor of the adoption of The Star-Spangled Banner.”

From: and Fred Rasmussen, Baltimore Sun


Ella Virginia Houck Holloway Chapter National Society United States Daughters of 1812, Mechanicsville, Maryland

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