Editor's Note: Originally published June 14, 2012
While the 4th of July is a day for celebrating our independence, the 14th of June is a day to celebrate the adoption of the Stars & Stripes as the official flag of the United States. A young teacher, Bernard Cigrand, planted the idea for such an observance back in 1886 when he placed a 10-inch, 38- star flag on his desk and then assigned essays on the flag and its significance. From that point through the 1930’s, he publicly called for a holiday celebrating the symbol of our independence.
Long years of fervent and devoted effort to bring about this holiday finally began to pay off during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of the event on June 14, 1916. However, Flag Day did not become official until August 1949, when President Harry Truman signed the legislation and proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day.
Many Americans celebrate Flag Day by displaying the Red, White & Blue in front of homes and businesses. Flag-raising ceremonies, Flag Day services, musical salutes and street parades are popular ways to observe this holiday.
Before you ready Old Glory for display, you may want to check the American Legion’s website to ensure that you are following flag etiquette. Here are a few rules to keep in mind:
- Torn, tattered or faded flags should be replaced. The American Legion accepts worn flags and disposes of them respectfully.
- If a flag is flown at night, it is supposed to be illuminated. Any type of lighting, even a porch lamp, works.
- If multiple flags are being flown, the American flag owns the right. This means that no other flag should be to its right (the viewer’s left).
- Flags should only be flown at half staff when authorized by the president or the governor.
- Flags should only be flown upside down as a distress signal, for example, when a ship requires immediate assistance.
Did you know that there have been 27 official versions of the flag to date? Arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers’ preferences until 1912 when President William H. Taft standardized the then-new flag’s 48 stars into six rows of eight. The 49-star flag (1959-60) and the 50-star flag also have standardized star patterns. The current version of the flag dates to July 4, 1960 after Hawaii became the 50th state on August 21, 1959.
Further Reading: Flag Code, Flag FAQ, Ask the Expert, Flag Day, America’s Story: Flag Day, National Flag Day Foundation
Becky likes to read … A LOT. When she’s not reading, she likes to pretend that she can garden. Her thumb has no hint of green whatsoever but luckily her plants are forgiving. Her favorite books are The Shannara series by Terry Brooks