History of Flag Day

History of Flag Day

Flag Day is June 14 History of Flag Day

Flag Day is a celebration of the adoption of the American flag by Continental Congress in the First Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777. Although the 200-year anniversary of this date was celebrated by flying flags on public buildings and holding remembrances in several cities, Flag Day wasn’t officially recognized until President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1949.

Bernard J. Cigrand, known to the general public as the "Father of Flag Day," worked as a school teacher at Stony Hill School in Waubeka, Wisconsin. He held the first unofficial observance for Flag Day at that school in 1885, and today a bust of Cigrand stands in Waubeka at the National Flag Day Americanism Center.

Cigrand delivered speeches around the country about patriotism and holding an observance for the flag on June 14. He later became the president of the American Flag Day Association and the National Flag Day Society. He continued to promote his cause with backing from those organizations. According to amateur historian James L. Brown who wrote the booklet, "The Real Bernard J. Cigrand: Father of Flag Day," Cigrand once claimed he had given 2,188 speeches on the flag and patriotism. The Chicago Tribune noted that Cigrand "almost single-handedly" established Flag Day.

Although Cigrand is perhaps the most recognized candidate, several others have also claimed to be founders of Flag Day. In 1889 the principal of a free kindergarten, George Bolch, celebrated the anniversary of the Flag resolution at his New York City school. Soon the State Board of Education of New York, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia and the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution celebrated Flag Day too.

In 1893 Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin and the president of the Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania, attempted to have a resolution passed deeming June 14 as Flag Day. That same year the Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania were responsible for a resolution passed requiring the American flag to be displayed on all Philadelphia’s public buildings. In 1937 Pennsylvania was the first state to make Flag Day a legal holiday.

After much persistence and the support of many individuals, organizations, mayors, governors and five presidents, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation requesting that June 14 become National Flag Day. In 1927 President Coolidge issued a second proclamation, and finally in 1949 Congress approved it and it became a law.

Soon after Flag Day became official, another law passed requiring the state superintendent of public schools to make sure patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day, Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s Birthday are observed in schools.

How to Observe Flag Day

The week of June 14 is designated as "National Flag Week." During National Flag Week, the president will issue a proclamation urging U.S. citizens to fly the American flag for the duration of that week. The flag should also be displayed on all Government buildings. Some organizations hold parades and events in celebration of our national flag and everything it represents. It’s also a time to remember and honor military men and women who defend our flag and our country.

The National Flag Day Foundation holds an annual observance for Flag Day on the second Sunday in June. The program includes a ceremonial raising of the flag, recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, singing of the National Anthem, a parade and more. The ceremony will take place on June 10, 2007, in Waubeka, WI, the birthplace of Flag Day (according to Cigrand).

Contact a local veteran’s organization or your city council to see if any Flag Day events are taking place in your area.

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References Flag: An American Biography by Marc Leepson 2004. "Father of Flag Day was Dr. Bernard Cigrand" 2006. Origins of Flag Day USINFO.STATE.GOV 2005. Copyright (c) 2007 Mandy Barberio. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".