You’re a Grand Old Flag is a popular song written by George M. Cohan.
The song was published in 1906 and first performed on the stage on February 6. Cohan wrote the song for his musical George Washington, Jr. The song was first performed on the opening night of the play at Herald Square Theater in NYC.
The Library of Congress notes “The original lyric for this perennial George M. Cohan favorite came, as Cohan later explained, from an encounter he had with a Civil War veteran who fought at Gettysburg. The two men found themselves next to each other and Cohan noticed the vet held a carefully folded but ragged old flag. The man reportedly then turned to Cohan and said, “She’s a grand old rag.” Cohan thought it was a great line and originally named his tune “You’re a Grand Old Rag.” So many groups and individuals objected to calling the flag a “rag,” however, that he “gave ’em what they wanted” and switched words, renaming the song “You’re a Grand Old Flag”.”
According to records of the musical, the above scene was replicated and the soldier’s comment serves as a lead-in to the song.
The song became the first song from a musical to sell over one million copies of sheet music.
The song has become a popular song, especially for the Fourth of July and other Patriotic events.
George M. Cohan gave us many hits including Yankee Doodle Dandy and Over There.