On January 1, 1776, when the Continental Army had the British Army under siege, General George Washington ordered that the Grand Union Flag be hoisted. That flag, which consisted of 13 stars accented with red and white stripes, became the symbol of the United States of America. Each June 14th, Americans celebrate the anniversary of Betsy Ross’ original creation as the symbol of our nation. This day we call Flag Day.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress proposed that the United States have a national flag instead of the British Union Jack. The flag they proposed was consistent with Betsy Ross’ Grand Union design which was the 13 stars of the flag represented the 13 colonies with the alternating red and white stripes. However, at the time of the Continental Congress’ resolution no celebration of the flags anniversary had been considered.
By 1961, the Union was on the verge of Civil War, but a strong sense of patriotism was on the rise. It was during this time that people began to consider having a holiday commemorating the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the symbol of America. First celebrated in Hartford, Connecticut, people gathered to offer prayers for the preservation of the struggling Union.
As the flag changed, so did the celebrations surrounding it. By 1877, the centennial anniversary of Old Glory was marked by government buildings displaying the flag. In 1885, a Wisconsin schoolteacher began recognizing the Flag Birthday and having her students observe the day as a holiday. Almost 8 years later, the City of Philadelphia celebrated the first official Flag Day. And, by 1894, New York became the first state in the Union to formally celebrate Old Glory’s anniversary. It is not surprising that in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing Flag Day as June 14th and that in August 1949, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed Flag Day should be observed every June 14th.
While Flag Day is not a federal holiday, many states honor the occasion. The celebrations have come a long way from those early programs in Hartford, Connecticut in 1861.
Today, many communities have grand festivities marking the birthday of the Stars and Stripes. Many cities have parades, flag raisings, festivals, and music.
School children, who have been a part of Flag Day celebrations since the 1800s, take part in a number of Flag related activities. They learn about the history of the American flag and lessons about patriotism. Students and their families also often trek to important sites such as the Betsy Ross House or watch living history performances about the flag.
While Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, the celebration of the day does not go unnoticed. The American Flag, whether called Old Glory or the Stars and Stripes, graces many homes, government buildings, courts, and schools. It stands as a living icon of American spirit. So, this June 14th, celebrate Flag Day.