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From Simple Cloth to Mighty Symbol – A Brief History of Flag Day

Active Military
Active Military
June 1, 2024
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Flag Day, observed annually on June 14th, holds a special place in American history as a celebration of the adoption of the United States flag. The origins of Flag Day date back to 1777 when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution stating that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation. This resolution marked the official birth of the American flag, symbolizing independence and unity.


The idea of celebrating the flag’s adoption, however, officially began in 1885 when BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin, organized a group of students to observe June 14th as ‘Flag Birthday’ or ‘Flag Day’. His advocacy for an annual flag celebration caught on through his published works and advocacy, and over the following years, many schools and communities across the country began to celebrate June 14th as a day to honor the American flag.


Flag Day’s establishment as a national observance came through the efforts of several individuals and organizations pushing for a formal acknowledgment. One of the most notable advocates was William T. Kerr, who founded the American Flag Day Association in 1888, three years after Cigrand began his push, and dedicated his life to advocating for the national observance of Flag Day. Another significant figure was George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, who planned appropriate ceremonies for children to celebrate Flag Day in 1889. His ideas influenced later programs in the public schools.


President Woodrow Wilson officially established Flag Day on May 30, 1916, with a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance; it wasn’t until August 3, 1949 however, that President Harry S. Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.


Today, Flag Day is celebrated with various activities such as parades, essay contests, ceremonies, and musical salutes. Public buildings, schools, and private homes display the flag as a symbol of patriotism and respect for the country. Educational programs often focus on the flag’s history and the proper etiquette for its display and handling, reinforcing its importance as a national symbol.


Flag Day not only commemorates the creation and adoption of the flag but also serves as a day to honor the country’s heritage of liberty, unity, and freedom. Each stripe and star on the flag tells stories of sacrifices, struggles, and victories of American citizens. It serves as a reminder of the country’s journey and its enduring values.


As we continue to celebrate Flag Day, it remains a significant part of American cultural identity, fostering a sense of pride and patriotism among its citizens. The day encourages reflection on the nation’s history and prompts appreciation for the freedoms enjoyed today, all represented under the enduring symbol of the flag.

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