Celebrating Flag Day: Recounting the History of an Important American Symbol

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June 14 marks one of the most symbolic days in the history of the United States: the official establishment of the beloved stars and stripes as the country’s national emblem. On this date in 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution stating “that the flag of the United States shall be of thirteen stripes of alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white in a blue field, representing the new constellation.” With that quill stroke, the new flag would come to represent the new nation that had declared its independence not even a year prior.

While disagreement still abounds over who designed the first flag—the famous Betsy Ross story is apocryphal at best—it’s remarkable that the template detailed in the resolution has lasted to the present day. As more states have been assimilated into the union, the flag has undergone countless changes and iterations; mainly, more stars have been squeezed into that familiar blue square. Nonetheless, it has staunchly endured as the symbol so dear to America.

Despite that momentous occasion, it wasn’t until a century later that the idea for a national Flag Day celebration came into being. In 1885, a schoolteacher named Bernard Cigrand hosted a small-scale function in his classroom recognizing the congressional resolution about the flag. With an unabashed passion, Cigrand advocated for the establishment of a national Flag Day celebration throughout the rest of his life. His influence spread; many other schoolteachers followed suit in their classrooms and entire organizations dedicated themselves to the Flag Day mission. Finally, President Woodrow Wilson made a proclamation for a national observance of Flag Day in 1916, bringing the holiday to the national stage. However, it wasn’t until 1949 that President Harry Truman signed the Act of Congress that designated June 14 as National Flag Day.

While it still is not a national holiday, Flag Day holds tremendous significance all across the country. Each year, the week of June 14 is known as National Flag Week; during this period, all government buildings display the flag, and citizens across the country are encouraged to fly their own flags. Commonly, many cities will host boisterous, patriotic parades. The town of Three Oaks in Michigan claims to have the oldest and largest Flag Day parade in the nation. Other cities that hold long-running, massive annual celebrations include Quincy, Massachusetts, Fairfield, Washington, and Appleton, Wisconsin.

This year marks the 68th national celebration of Flag Day and the 240th anniversary of the adoption of the flag. Celebrate the holiday by attending a local parade or simply flying your own flag with pride.

 

 

Nitish Pahwa is a senior majoring in professional writing with a concentration in editing and publishing. He is passionate about the arts and has written about music and culture for various websites and publications. He owns way too many books and CDs, but somehow it’s never enough. Follow him on Twitter @pahwa_nitish.

 

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