Flag Day is celebrated by Americans on June 14 each year and commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States. Many Americans celebrate Flag Day by displaying the Red, White and Blue in front of homes and businesses. Some communities, schools and veterans’ organizations hold Flag Day parades, essay contests, ceremonies and picnics. Presidents have also issued proclamations for National Flag Week.
Flag Day will be celebrated this year on Sunday, June 14, 2020. Flag Week is celebrated the week of June 14th, every year.
The Origins Of Flags
According to sources including Britannica.com, the origins of flag use are thought to be in ancient China, circa 1046–256 bce during the Zhou dynasty. Flags were often associated with heads of state or the militia or armies that served those nations.
Flag use has evolved over time to include symbolic indicators or military victory (raising the flag over a conquered enemy) or defeat (lowering the flag as either a symbolic surrender or as a simple indication that one side has lost the conflict.
In naval operations, the flag has important significance; sailors could spot a seagoing friend or foe from great distances based on the type of flags flown by approaching sea vessels. Whether a ship’s crew would be greeted with a friendly response or a volley of cannon fire could be judged based on a viewing of “the colors” of the approaching ship.
This form of identification was not without its’ disadvantages; pirates were known to fly flags of a friendly vessel before coming into firing range before hoisting “the Jolly Roger” or other signifiers of a pirate ship. This practice is said to be the origin of the term “false flag operation”, which has been heard quite a bit in news reports in the last few years for one reason or another.
The Origin of the United States Flag
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution defining the colors, configuration, and symbolism of the Stars And Stripes, AKA The American Flag. The text of this resolution as reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs official site includes the following:
“…that the flag of the United States shall be of thirteen stripes of alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white in a blue field, representing the new constellation.”
The First U.S. Military Use Of The American Flag
The VA official site reports the first military conflict to include use of the newly created American Flag was in the Battle of the Brandywine, circa September 11, 1777. The United States Flag was first flown over a captured territory in 1778 in the Bahama Islands after the American military captured a fort operated by the British.
Pre-Flag Day Honors: The 100-Year Anniversary of the United States Flag
It could be argued that a proto-Flag Day happened on the 100 year anniversary of the original Flag Resolution in 1877 when there were many important observances of the holiday across the United States.
Early Observances Of Flag Day
An unofficial, but significant early observance of Flag Day happened in 1889 when a kindergarten teacher named George Balch created a ceremony for his school. His concepts were later taken on by the State Board of Education of New York. In 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia staged a Flag Day celebration.
In 1892 another group called the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution is said to have also held its’ own Flag Day observance. This pattern of state or local governments adopting some form of recognition for June 14th would continue until the official proclamation of the holiday later on.
The First Call For An Official Flag Day?
Some sources report that the first historically recognized call for an official Flag Day observance happened in 1861 when a newspaper editor named Charles Dudley Warner penned an editorial lobbying for a “Constitution Day” as well as a national Flag Day.
Recognizing The United States Flag: Disputed Claims Over The First Flag Day
History seems to be a bit murky on the subject of the first “official” flag day; many claims have been made but it should be pointed out the Flag Day wasn’t really a concept until about 100 years after the creation of the flag itself.
One “First Flag Day” claim came as early as 1861, where a celebration in Connecticut is said to have honored the flag. There are many other claims but the “Father of Flag Day” would do his work some 17 years later.
William T. Kerr, The Father of Flag Day
William T. Kerr gets the credit for founding what we now know as Flag Day, having founded the American Flag Day Association as a youngster attending school in Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t until the 1900s when Flag Day would begin to get its’ due from the federal government.
Flag Day: The First Presidential Proclamations
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that requested an official observance of Flag Day on June 14. His actions were viewed as a recognition of the anniversary of the original creation of the flag in 1777.
President Calvin Coolidge did something similar in 1927, but Flag Day would have to wait as long as 1949 before Congress approved the holiday and it was signed into law by President Harry Truman.
Since then, June 14 is the designated official Flag Day for the United States Flag.
How Is Flag Day Celebrated?
Since Flag Day is not a national holiday like Memorial Day or Labor Day, the observance is often done in a more civics-minded way with essay contests, public gatherings, murals, veterans service organization activities, and awareness campaigns.
Flag Day is observed on the local level and while it doesn’t get the same attention at military bases that some other military-related holidays do, it’s an important part nevertheless of a long tradition of honor the flag, its’ customs, and courtesies.
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