The History of Flag Day

“Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” On June 14, 1777, the U.S. Continental Congress wrote the Flag Resolution, but it gave no instructions on how large the flag should be or even its shape. Over one hundred years later, however, the American flag became such a symbol of national pride that a patriotic son from an immigrant family suggested that the flag should have its own holiday.

Bernard Cigrand was a young schoolteacher from Wisconsin when he placed a small flag in a bottle on his desk and told his students to write essays on what the flag meant to them. The assignment he gave to his students on June 14, 1885 is recognized as the first observance of Flag Day. After that day, Cigrand wrote many articles and gave speeches to promote the creation of a national holiday for the flag. Cigrand’s great granddaughter said that “he was a historian and he loved the flag. His parents came over from Luxembourg and they loved the country. They instilled that love of country in him.”

By the 1890s, Cigrand’s idea to honor the flag on June 14 caught on in several states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. At the beginning of the twentieth century, additional state legislatures approved Flag Day Resolutions. The Governor of Michigan proclaimed that “the rising sun should find Old Glory waving from every home, from every schoolhouse, and every public building…there should be appropriate exercises in every school and each child should have for his own a flag to be treasured.” As the U.S. entered World War I, President Wilson issued a proclamation requesting June 14 of each year as National Flag Day; however, Congress did not approve it until 1949 when it became law with President Truman’s signature.

Despite the work involved in creating Flag Day, most Americans today pay little attention to it. There are ways you can observe the day, however. During the week of June 14, the president will issue a proclamation urging citizens to display the American flag in their homes. Some organizations, such as the National Flag Day Foundation hold special events and parades in honor of our flag. To find out if there are Flag Day events in your area, contact your city council or local veteran’s association.

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