Where Flag Day comes from

June 14 is Flag Day in the United States. On June 14, 1777, the Stars and Stripes were adopted by the Second Continental Congress, and a series of pushes led President Woodrow Wilson to proclaim the anniversary as a celebration in 1916, and in 1949, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill into law declaring it an annual day of recognition.

Not that anyone takes the day off or anything. But it’s on the books.

The city of Hartford, Conn., celebrated Flag Day on June 14, 1861.

In 1885, a Wisconsin schoolteacher named Bernard Cigrand suggested a celebration, and then he went on tour, bringing his Flag Day idea with him. In 1894, at his suggestion, some 300,000 people in Chicago celebrated Flag Day in public parks around the city on the third Saturday of June (chosen so that schoolchildren could attend).

In 1888, William T. Kerr founded the Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania.

In 1893, Ben Franklin’s descendant Elizabeth Duane Gillespie pushed for an official recognition of Flag Day in Pennsylvania. In 1938, it became the first state to recognize Flag Day as a holiday.

In 1907, Elks lodges in America began recognizing Flag Day each year, and it was from this celebration that Wilson made his 1916 proclamation.

Flag Etiquette

In a few weeks, it will be Independence Day in the U.S. People will have cookouts, and will eat hamburgers and hot dogs on paper plates with a flag design on them, then wipe the mustard off their upper lips with paper napkins similarly decorated. They might even arrange sandwiches on platters with toothpicks in them with small flags waving off the side.

All these things are against flag etiquette:

The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.

Other rules, according to USFlag.org:

  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

That means that all the football and baseball games we watch around patriotic holidays during which players put flag patches on their uniforms? Also against flag etiquette.

It’s meant to be a solemn symbol, not something to cheer for.

Let’s end, then, with John J. Daly’s Toast to the Flag.

Here’s to the red of it–
There’s not a thread of it,
No, nor a shred of it
In all the spread of it
From foot to head.
But heroes bled for it,
Faced steel and lead for it,
Precious blood shed for it,
Bathing it Red!
Here’s to the white of it–
Thrilled by the sight of it,
Who knows the right of it,
But feels the might of it
Through day and night?
Womanhood’s care for it
Made manhood dare for it,
Purity’s prayer for it
Keeps it so white!
Here’s to the blue of it–
Beauteous view of it,
Heavenly hue of it,
Star-spangled dew of it
Constant and true;
Diadems gleam for it,
States stand supreme for it,
Liberty’s beam for it
Brightens the blue!
Here’s to the whole of it–
Stars, stripes and pole of it,
Body and soul of it,
O, and the roll of it,
Sun shinning through;
Hearts in accord for it,
Swear by the sword for it,
Thanking the Lord for it,
Red White and Blue!


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