Every year on June 14th we celebrate the flag of the United States of America. This day has been set aside as Flag Day. In many communities all over the country there are Flag Day parades and celebrations. Even though Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, the roots of this celebration go back to the earliest days of the republic.
Early History of Flag Day
On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the flag of the United States. Two years prior, on June 14, 1775, the Congress had established the American Continental Army. The early founders placed great importance in the design, adoption, and display of an official American flag. It was a symbol of the independence of a new nation, and a way to demonstrate our united purpose in fighting for our freedom.
The idea for having a special day to recognize the flag itself as separate from Independence Day festivities dates back to 1885. A school teacher in Wisconsin named BJ Cigrand arranged for his students to celebrate June 14th as the “Flag Birthday.” The event was covered by several newspapers and magazines.
Perhaps inspired by the earlier Wisconsin celebration, a New York City kindergarten teacher, named George Balch, planned a day of ceremonies and celebration on June 14, 1889 to celebrate the American flag. Two years later, the State Board of Education adopted the idea of an annual Flag Day celebration for all students in the state of New York.
How Flag Day Became a National Idea
The idea continued to spread. By 1907, communities all over the country held Flag Day celebrations. It was especially popular with school children. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (Elks) designated June 14th as Flag Day in 1907. In 1911, the Elks made observing Flag Day a requirement for all of its lodges.
The Elks also played a major role in convincing President Woodrow Wilson to declare June 14, 1916 as Flag Day. President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating every June 14th as Flag Day on August 2, 1949.
Flag Day is not yet an official federal holiday like Independence Day or Thanksgiving. Mail still gets delivered and banks are open as usual. However, it is still a special day set aside to remember our most important national symbol.
How to Properly Display the American Flag
Flag Day is one days specially designated by the Flag Code as a day for displaying the American flag. The Flag Code is part of the United States Code. It is the part of the law that has the Pledge of Allegiance and describes the appropriate ways for displaying the flag.
Some key elements of the Flag Code include:
- The flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade, except from a staff
- The flag should not be draped over cars or vehicles
- The flag, when carried in a procession with other flags, should be on the marching right
- No other flag or pennant should be displayed above the flag of the United States of America
- The flag should be displayed in a way that is respectful and never touch anything that is beneath it, such as the ground, water, or merchandise
- The flag should be displayed in a place of prominence
Flag Day is a time when we have a chance to not only honor the flag of the United States of America, but also all that the flag symbolizes, including honor, sacrifice, duty, independence, and liberty.