by Howard Lestrud
ECM Online Managing Editor
There are many important dates when we proudly fly the American flag. Of course, it can be flown 365 days a year and 24-7 if the proper guidelines are followed. The splendor of the red, white and blue was very evident as we recently observed Memorial Day.
A special day is nearing when the American flag will again be flown by many in this country. It’s called National Flag Day, Thursday, June 14.
Let’s go to usflag.org and read about the history of celebrating the American flag on June 14 of each year:
The Fourth of July was traditionally celebrated as America’s birthday, but the idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) as ‘Flag Birthday’. In numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses over the following years, Cigrand continued to enthusiastically advocate the observance of June 14 as ‘Flag Birthday’, or ‘Flag Day’.
On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, planned appropriate ceremonies for the children of his school, and his idea of observing Flag Day was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.
Following the suggestion of Colonel J Granville Leach (at the time historian of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution), the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America on April 25, 1893 adopted a resolution requesting the mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority and all private citizens to display the Flag on June 14th. Leach went on to recommend that thereafter the day be known as ‘Flag Day’, and on that day, school children be assembled for appropriate exercises, with each child being given a small Flag.
Two weeks later on May 8th, the Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution unanimously endorsed the action of the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames. As a result of the resolution, Dr. Edward Brooks, then Superintendent of Public Schools of Philadelphia, directed that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14, 1893 in Independence Square. School children were assembled, each carrying a small Flag, and patriotic songs were sung and addresses delivered.
In 1894, the governor of New York directed that on June 14 the Flag be displayed on all public buildings. With BJ Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the moving spirits, the Illinois organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, was organized for the purpose of promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises. On June 14th, 1894, under the auspices of this association, the first general public school children’s celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held in Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks, with more than 300,000 children participating.
Adults, too, participated in patriotic programs. Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, delivered a 1914 Flag Day address in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: “I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself.”
Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day – the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 – was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson’s proclamation, it was not until Aug. 3, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.
Staying on the usflag.org website, we find out more about the evolution of the United States flag.
No one knows with absolute certainty who designed the first stars and stripes or who made it. Congressman Francis Hopkinson seems most likely to have designed it, and few historians believe that Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, made the first one.
Until the Executive Order of June 24, 1912, neither the order of the stars nor the proportions of the flag was prescribed. Consequently, flags dating before this period sometimes show unusual arrangements of the stars and odd proportions, these features being left to the discretion of the flag maker. In general, however, straight rows of stars and proportions similar to those later adopted officially were used. The principal acts affecting the flag of the United States are the following:
• On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
• Act of January 13, 1794 – provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.
• Act of April 4, 1818 – provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state, signed by President Monroe.
• Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 – established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.
• Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated Jan. 3, 1959 – provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.
Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated Aug. 21, 1959 – provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizontally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.
Showing respect for the United States flag is most important and we can easily learn about flag etiquette by going to http://www.usflag.org/flagetiquette.html
Check out the National Flag Day Foundation at http://www.nationalflagday.com/default.asp
Mission of the National Flag Day Foundation is to carry on the tradition of the first flag day observance. On June 14th, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19-year-old teacher at Stony Hill School, placed a 10 inch, 38- star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance.