Happy Flag Day! We’ve compiled a list of fourteen facts for the fourteenth day of June, which is indeed, Flag Day. But why? Why do we celebrate Old Glory two weeks into one of the first summer months? Below we’ll give you everything you need to know about the holiday.
1) Why is Flag Day celebrated on June 14?
Americans celebrate Flag Day on June 14th because on this day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress decided that the young country needed an official Flag. According to Mental Floss, Congress was spurred to action by an American Indian, Thomas Green, who needed something to identify himself with as he traveled through what is now present-day Philadelphia. Whether the appeal is what drove Congress’ action or not, they soon passed a resolution that called for the flag to “be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” With this initial step, the seeds for Flag Day were planted.
2) Who Designed the First Flag?
Believe it or not, Betsy Ross did not design the first Flag. In fact, New Jersey Rep. Francis Hopkinson is widely credited with mocking up the first design of Old Glory. Why? Well, because he was the first person to publicly claim that he did. This, of course, leaves room for debate because there’s currently no sketch of Hopkinson’s design.
3) So then what did Betsy Ross do?
Betsy Ross did make Flags. It’s just disputed as to whether or not she made and designed the first flag. According to Betsy Ross’ grandson, who recounted this story 50 years after Betsy died, the legendary seamstress was visited by President George Washington, Robert Morris, and her husband’s uncle, George Ross in June 1776. The trio asked her to make a Flag, which she did. According to biography.com her “grandson’s recollections were published in Harper’s Monthly in 1873, but today most scholars agree that it was not Betsy who made the first flag. However, Betsy was without dispute a flagmaker who, records show, was paid in 1777 by the Pennsylvania State Navy Board for making “ship’s colours, & c.” If you want to learn more about the “First Flag” debate, read this.
4) Okay, so who decided to make Flag Day a holiday?
Again, the exact dates and voices that lead to Flag Day are, to this day, debated. According to Philly.com, “in 1861, at the start of the Civil War, a man named George Morris persuaded his city of Hartford, Conn., to undertake a patriotic celebration on behalf of the Union. But the concept didn’t catch on, there or elsewhere.” Meanwhile, NJ.com and the National Flag Day Foundation wrote that If Betsy Ross is considered the Mother of the American Flag and in turn Flag Day, then a man by the name of Bernard Cigrand is considered the “Father of Flag Day”. Cigrand’s idea to establish a holiday commemorating Old Glory dates back to June 1886. In a Chicago paper, he wrote an article titled “The Fourteenth of June”, in which he argued for an annual observance of the Stars and Stripes. Both arguments seem to suggest that during and after the Civil war, ideas began swirling around establishing a holiday for the Flag that survived a brutal conflict which almost tore our country apart. Despite the internal divide, these voices recognized that we needed to pay homage to the one thing keeping us together, and the one thing Americans could unite under – The Flag.
5) When did the holiday really gain some momentum?
May 30, 1916. This is the day that President Woodrow Wilson said “I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as Flag Day with special patriotic exercises.” Wilson was moved by a man named, William Kerr. All the way out in Western Pennsylvania in the late 1880s, Kerr established the American Flag Day Foundation, meeting with close to 10 Presidents, and just as many politicians, about creating an official holiday for the Flag.
6) So that’s it, Flag Day was established?
Note quite. Woodrow Wilson quarterbacked the move and handed the ball off to President Harry Truman who brought the movement into the end zone by signing Flag Day’s permanent observance into law in 1949.
7) Right on, so is Flag Day a Federal Holiday?
Nope. Though the tribute to the Red, White, and Blue is observed nationwide, it is not a federal holiday. According to NJ.com, “Pennsylvania is the only state to establish June 14 as a state holiday for Flag Day. New York also designates the second Sunday in June every year as a state holiday for Flag Day.”
8) So what do the colors of the Flag represent?
In regards to the Seal of the United States of America, a color pallet the Flag mirrors, and vice versa, Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reported to Congress that: “The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
9) And what about the pattern?
Well, as you read above, Congress started with thirteen stripes. When Kentucky and Vermont joined the Union, two extra stripes were added in 1794. With the addition of more states, came the idea of adding more stripes, but as you can imagine, it started to look a little off. In order to address these concerns, it was decided that Stars, instead of stripes, would be added for new states.
10) How did we get to our current design?
The current design of our Flag is the result of a B- project from a 117-year-oldin Lancaster, Ohio. That right, in 1958 a high school student named Robert G. Heft created a design for the Flag for a class project after Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states. President Eisenhower received thousands of ideas for the updated flag, and Heft’s stuck.
11) Anything else I should know about the current design?
Yes, the American Flag went through so many iterations during the early 1800s, that the current design is actually the first one to have lasted for more than 50 years.
12) Awesome. Is there anything else celebrated on Flag Day?
Yes. Our military also celebrates its birthday on June 14. These are the men and women, past and present, who have fought for our colors for hundreds of years. The shared holiday is very fitting.
13) What should and shouldn’t I do with the American Flag
According to Military.com here are a few rules when it comes to respecting the American Flag:
– Display the U.S. flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open. When a patriotic effect is desired the flag may be displayed 24-hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
– When placed on a single staff or lanyard, place the U.S. Flag above all other flags.
– When flags are displayed in a row, the U.S. flag goes to the observer’s left. Flags of other nations are flown at same height. State and local flags are traditionally flown lower.
– Don’t dip the U.S. Flag for any person, flag, or vessel.
– Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
– Don’t fly flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
There are more bullet points. You can read the full list here.
14) What are nicknames for the American Flag
As you’ve probably noticed, we were using a few nicknames for the American Flag above. They are the “Star and Stripes”, “Old Glory”, and “Red, White, and Blue”
There you have it. 14 facts for the 14th day of June. If you enjoyed this list be sure to check out our “Flag Feed”, where we’ve curated some of the best pictures of the Red, White, and Blue.