On behalf of Andrew D. Byrd
Yesterday, in the United States, we all celebrated Flag Day. Many people across the country honor this day by displaying the American flag at their homes, businesses and public buildings. Other ways people observe this day include flag raising ceremonies and parades. But what we often forget is that it’s a time to reflect on the foundations of our nation’s freedom. The American flag represents freedom and has been an enduring symbol of our countries ideals since its early days in history.
So let’s take a quick look into the history of Flag Day. Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the American flag by resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. While celebrated, Flag Day wasn’t officially recognized until President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1949. Yet, there were several people and organizations that played instrumental roles in the establishment of Flag Day.
Bernard J. Cigrand, known to the general public as the “Father of Flag Day,” worked as a school teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin. He held the first unofficial observance for Flag Day at his school in 1885. Thereafter, Cigrand delivered speeches around the country about patriotism and holding an observance for the flag on June 14th. 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.
Although Cigrand is perhaps the most recognized, several others have also claimed to be founders of Flag Day. In 1889, George Bolch, a school principal, celebrated the anniversary of the flag at his New York City school. 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 14th 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.
After much persistence and the support of many individuals, organizations, mayors, governors and five presidents, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation requesting that June 14th become National Flag Day. In 1927 President Coolidge issued a second proclamation, and finally in 1949 Congress approved it and it became a law.
As some may know, the original version of the flag on June 14, 1777 had 13 stars. As it has stood since July 4, 1960, the American flag has 50 stars. Here is a diagram of the many different versions “Old Glory” has taken during our Nation’s history:
Regardless of the shape and size “Old Glory” has taken over the years, the flag of the United States is one of our nation’s most widely recognized symbols. It has flown on earth and the moon. “Old Glory” is honored, saluted, loved, respected and feared…it stands for freedom.
But what is most important about Flag Day is to remember those who have died in defense of the American flag. We would not have the freedoms we have today if it weren’t for the heroic men and women throughout history who have defended our great nation and its flag.