Strike up the band. Put a feather in your cap. Shout hooray for the red, white and blue. America is celebrating another birthday!

Some 218 years have passed since our Founding Fathers signed on the undotted line, as it were --deciding, as the witty Mr. Franklin put it, to hang together so they wouldn't hang separately. There have been ups and downs, but that's not bad for a country trying a great experiment, creating a form of government that had not been seen before. So, it's time to put on your patriotic hats and think a bit about our past-- the milestones, monuments, facts and lore that have made us what we are. Yankee Doodle!Here's a Fourth of July quiz for the inquisitive. Test your knowledge of some facts regarding Independence Day:

1. The original Declaration of Independence is in a display case surrounded by what gaseous element?

2. The signing of the Declaration of Independence can be viewed on the reverse side of what U.S. currency?

3. Who published "Common Sense"?

4. Finish the quote: "Taxation without representation is..."

5. What New York Yankee pitcher hurled a no-hitter on July 4, 1983?

6. What two musicians, one famous for his folk tunes, the other a legendary jazz man, were born on our nation's birthday?

7. Who had the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence?

8. How many of the 56 Declaration signers were born abroad?

9. The final match of what tennis tournament is held on July 4?

10. What two presidents died on the same 4th of July?

11. What infamous Western outlaw was shot and killed on July 4, 1881?

12. What other document famous in a revolution was published on July 4?

13. What suffragette shocked her audience by appealing in unseemly attire when she gave a Fourth of July speech in 1853?

14. Which colony did not send delegates to the First Continental Congress?

15. Who immortalized the "shot heard 'round the world"?

Answers:

1. Helium.

2. The $2 federal reserve note.

3. Thomas Paine.

4. "tyranny."

5. Dave Righetti.

6. Stephen Foster and Louis Armstrong.

7. John Hancock, from Massachusetts, who was president of the Continental Congress.

8. Eight.

9. Wimbledon.

10. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826.

11. William H. Bonney, a.k.a. Billy the Kid.

12. The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848.

13. Amelia Jenks Bloomer.

14. Georgia.

15. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

*****

Additional Information

Famous Firsts

The National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., has compiled a list of American women who were first in various fields. Here's a sampling:

1. Jane Addams- first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Peace (1933). She was the founder of Hull House and a social activist.

2. Marian Anderson - first black opera singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House.

3. Susan B. Anthony - first woman honored by having her image on a U.S. coin.

4. Elizabeth Blackwell -first American woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States, graduating in 1849 from Geneva Medical College.

5. Anne Bradstreet - first American woman poet (1612-72).

6. Margaret Brent - first woman lawyer in Colonial America. She was the first woman to own property in her own name (1638, Maryland).

7. Pearl Buck - first American woman to win a Nobel Prize for literature (1931).

8. Martha Hughes Cannon - first woman member of a state legislature when she was elected to the Utah Senate in 1896.

9. Gertrude Ederle - first woman to swim across the English Channel (1926) and surpassed the men's record.

10. Margaret Gorman - first Miss America (1921).

11. Lucy Hobbs - first woman dentist, graduating from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in 1866.

12. Minna Lewison - first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. (1918)

13. Hattie McDaniel - first black person to win an Oscar; she won for "Gone With the Wind."

14. Maria Mitchell - first astronomer to discover a comet using a telescope (1847).

15. Frances Perkins - first woman Cabinet officer, and the first woman secretary of Labor (1933-45).

16. Elizabeth Ann Seton - first native-born American woman to be canonized a saint.

17. Anna Taylor - first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel (1901).

18. Alice Stebbins Wells - first policewoman in the U.S., hired in 1910 in Los Angeles.

19. Edith Wharton - first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for her novel, "The Age of Innocence," in 1921.

20. Phyllis Wheatley - first known black woman published poet, issuing her first work in 1773.

*****

IT'S A GRAND OLD FLAG

The Stars and Stripes is one of our most enduring symbols, famous worldwide as a sign of freedom. In "Star Spangled Banner: Our Nation and Its Flag" (National Geographic Society), author Margaret Sedeen offers a fascinating look at how our flag came to be:

An appeal to heaven

Regional feeling among the colonists developed early. By 1700, Massachusetts had its own flag --with a pine tree as the primary symbol.

Join or die

The motif that appealed most widely to early Americans was the snake --shown on the "Join or Die" flag possibly designed by Benjamin Franklin and the "Don't tread on me" flags, one of which had the first red and white stripes to appear.

A letter signed "The American Guesser" appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal Dec. 27, 1775, touting the virtues of the snake as a national symbol: "I recollect that [the rattlesnake's] eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids --She may therefore be esteemed as a emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged ever surrenders: she is hterefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage..." It has been surmised that the guesser was Franklin.

The truest parent of the Stars and Stripes was a flag with 13 red and white stripes with the British Union in the canton. This was known, among other things, as the Continental Colors.

After the Delegation, there seemed to be no great hurry getting a new flag. Not until June 14, 1777, did Congress undertake the task: "Resolved: That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."

Just because there was a national flag, there was no uniformity in design for years afterward. Word of the new design spread slowly. The stars particularly were arranged in various patterns-- circled, rows, stars forming larger stars. The number of star points varied. Things were further confused in 1778 when an ambassador from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies inquired about the flag and Ben Franklin and John Adams wrote to say it had 13 stripes, alternately red, white and blue.

Did Betsy Ross make the first flag? The first mention of this was made in 1870 by a grandson, William J. Canby, who said he heard the story from his grandmother. There is no other historical evidence to back it up.

In 1794, 13 stars and stripes no longer told the story. Vermont and Kentucky had become states, so a bill was passed increasing the number of both to 15. This was the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 that inspired our national anthem.

But by 1818, the country realized it couldn't go on adding a stripe for every state and the number was reduced to 13 again. Only new stars would be added.