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Flag Day – Born In The Heartland Of America

American Flag (Wikipedia Public Domain)
American Flag (Wikipedia Public Domain)

It’s believed the idea of Flag Day began 128 years ago when a schoolteacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin, had his students observe June 14 as ‘Flag Birthday,’ or ‘Flag Day.’

According to USFlag.org, BJ Cigrand began ‘Flag Day’ in 1885 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes), then pushed for it to become an annual celebration by promoting it in numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses. Sure, America’s birthday was and still is celebrated annually on July 4, but Cigrand wanted a day to specifically celebrate the Flag itself.

There is much debate over who actually designed the Flag. Some people believe it was Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress who few historians believe made the first one. But many historians say that story is incorrect and believe it was Congressman Francis Hopkinson, a popular patriot and lawyer from New Jersey who signed the Declaration of Independence. According to this biography, he wrote a letter to the Board of Admiralty in 1780 that he designed the Flag. The official flag of the United States has changed over time as the country has added more states.

Just four years after Cigrand’s ‘Flag Day’ celebration, on June 14, 1989, in New York, another teacher, George Balch, celebrated the still young and unofficial holiday with his kindergarten students, which eventually led to the holiday being adopted by the State Board of Education of New York.

The holiday eventually caught on in other states as well. On June 14, 1893, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, school children got together, each carrying a small Flag, and sang patriotic songs and listened to addresses. In Chicago, Illinois, one year later to the day, more than 300,000 children participated in the holiday by taking part in ‘Flag Day’ exercises.

Eventually, it began to catch on outside the school system. In 1914, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane gave a ‘Flag Day’ address. “I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself,” said Lane, words he said were spoken to him that morning.

But, in 1916, after three decades of being celebrated in local and state settings, President Woodrow Wilson issued an official proclamation of ‘Flag Day’ on the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 (signed on June 14), which eventually led to President Harry Truman signing an Act of Congress, in 1949, declaring June 14 as the official annual holiday of National Flag Day.

 

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