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Flag Day

History of the Flag, the History of Flag Day

Though the Flag was first celebrated in 1877, with the centennial of the U.S. flag's existence,  the idea of making it a public celebration is believed to have originated in 1885. 

In course of time a number of individuals and organizations advocated the adoption of a national day of commemoration for the U.S. Flag.  However, B.J. Cigrand, a teacher from the Wisconsin Public School, District 6, is believed to be a forerunner of the thought.  

He organized the pupils in the Fredonia, to observe June 14  as 'Flag Birthday'.  It was the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes, the first national flag of the United States. 

It was a bid to inspire and educate the school children with spirit of the Flag as well as love for the nation.  And it was not a single shot bid. Cigrand continued to advocate the need for its observance in the following years through numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses. But the celebration was yet to take off in a well defined style and in a wider scale.  

On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, planned appropriate ceremonies for the children of his school, and his idea of observing Flag Day was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York.  On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day. 

Inspired by Colonel J Granville Leach, a historian,  the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America adopted a resolution on  April 25, 1893. The resolution requested the mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority and all private citizens to display the Flag on June 14th. Leach went on to recommend that thereafter the day be known as 'Flag Day'.  It was also recommended that on that day, school children be assembled for appropriate exercises, with each child being given a small Flag. 

As a result of the resolution, Dr. Edward Brooks, then Superintendent of Public Schools of Philadelphia, directed that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14, 1893 in Independence Square. School children were assembled, each carrying a small Flag, and patriotic songs were sung and addresses delivered. 

In 1894, the governor of New York directed that on June 14 the Flag be displayed on all public buildings. Meanwhile, with BJ Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the driving force, the Illinois organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, came into being. Its purpose was to promote the holding of Flag Day exercises. 

And thanks to its initiative, on June 14th, 1894, the first general public school children's celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held. More than 300,000 children participated in the programs held  various parks across Chicago. 

Adults, too, participated in patriotic programs in different parts of the country.  And the celebration registered increasing popularity as more and more localities and states over the next three decades.    

The Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson established it officially on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years following Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, the 14th of June was designated by President Harry Truman as National Flag Day to be celebrated each year across the nation.


The American national flag has come through a course of changes. It was changed some 27 times from 1777 to 1960. 
Let us take a journey along the course of history to see 
how our national flag has come to evolve through various changes. 

The Stars and Stripes came to be regarded as the national flag with the official recognition of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. This was the year following our nation's Independence.  What was there before this Stars and Stripes came to secure its berth as the national flag? Which one was used to really flag off the journey of an independent Union of American States.  What did it look like?

The Grand Union Flag:

Continental Color Flag It showed the British Union Flag of 1606, the predecessor of the Union Jack, in the canton. Its field consisted of seven red and six white alternated stripes representing the 13 colonies. The latter officially replaced it on June 14, 1777.

Other earlier versions:

There were some other early versions of the Flag. A very popular one among them was, the first Navy Jack. It had the 13 red-white stripes with a rattlesnake overall, and the motto "Don't Tread on Me." Don't Tread On Me Flag

The 1st national Flag:

The First National Flag Called the Stars and Stripes, this was formally approved by the Continental Congress--on June 14, 1777. The blue canton was to contain 13 stars, but the layout of the stars was left undefined, and several patterns are known. The one designed by the legendary Betsy Ross is said to feature the stars arranged in five rows of either two or three stars. 

The Navy adopted its own flag

Some related designs that followed soon, include the 76 Flag. It was flown at the Battle of Bennington on Aug. 16, 1777.  The 76 Flag

Hulbert's Stars and Stripes

Hulbert's Stars and Strips Flag Yet another contemporary flag that was cast in the mold of the Stars and Stripes was the one designed by John Hulbert, a magistrate. Its stripes were the same but the canton featured a diamond-shaped field of 13 stars.

The Stars and Stripes - 1795 version 

Stars and Stripes remained unchanged until May 1, 1795, when two more stars and two more stripes were added to reflect the admission to the union of Vermont (1791) and Kentucky (1792). It was this flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the "Star Spangled Banner". 1795 version of our flag

Stars & Stripes - 1818 version

1818 Flag In 1818, with five more states being admitted, the Congress enacted legislation. This stated that henceforth the stripes should remain 13, whereas the number of stars should always match the number of states. It was also decided that any new star should be added on the July 4 following a state's admission. This has been the system ever since.

The 1863 version:

On May 1, 1863, a new national flag, the Stainless Banner  was adopted. However, the design did not last long. Stainless Banner Flag 1863

The 1865 version:

1865 version Stainless Banner But a still short lived was a modification of the Stainless Banner. It was adopted, rather futilely, about a month before the end of the war in April 1865.

Stars and Stripes - standardized version

Since then every time a new state was annexed, the size of the canton, as well as the stripes got altered, so as to accommodate the increased number of stars. It took to Oct. 29, 1912, when an executive order standardized the proportions and relative sizes of the elements of the flag. Stars and Stripes Standardized

However, the exact shades of color of the elements were yet to be standardized. 
And it took till 1934 to standardize this.

The national flag which we see these days has been effective since July 4, 1960. 
This was following the inclusion of Hawaii in the United States of America. 
However, this flag featuring 50 stars on a canton against the background of 13 stripes 
- 7 red and 6 white - has been evolved through a long period of eventful years.

 Old Glory

Flag Day
is meant for the promotion of national patriotism through allegiance to your Flag, the Stars and Stripes. So, be you at home, or away from home, take a break for reciting a pledge of allegiance to the national Flag as well as your republic. 

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands, 
one nation under God, indivisible, 
with liberty and justice for all.

Stand upright, remove headdress, if any, and place the right hand over the heart while reciting the pledge.

Now, a few words about the origin of the pledge:

The pledge was first brought out in the juvenile periodical The Youth's Companion on Sept. 8, 1892, in the following form: 

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; 
one nation indivisible, with liberty and Justice for all."

According to a committee of the U.S. Flag Association, the pledge was written by Francis Bellamy, an assistant editor of the periodical.

The words "the flag of the United States of America" were substituted for "my Flag" in 1924, and the pledge was officially recognized by the U.S. government in 1942.

In 1954, at President Dwight D. Eisenhower's urging, the Congress legislated that "under God" be added, making the pledge finally read:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America 
and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, 
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The Colors of the Flag
Red, White & Blue


There is no official assignment of meaning or symbolism to the colors of the flag. 
However, Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, in describing the Great Seal, related its colors to those of the flag. 

According to Thomson, 
"White signifies purity and innocence, 
Red, hardiness & valor, 
and Blue . . . vigilance, perseverance & justice."

 vigilance, perseverance & justice

purity and innocence

hardiness & valor

So the Red and White stripes of 13 represent the link 
to the original ground of 13 states on which the nation has been built up.
And the stars, representing the union of now 50 states, 
have been laid on the blue canton to bind all of them 
with the bond of vigilance, perseverance and justice. 


The Stars & Stripes
The National Anthem

The Stars and Stripes that adorns the crown of the United States of America for over 240 years. Over the ages it has been an undaunted source of inspiration for all of us. It gave us a unique identity and a sense of belongingness with this glorious land. It kept us feel proud of our nation's achievement, and also led us to champion its causes. It inspired the happenings of quite a lot of events - recognized as milestones in the history of development of the nation.

And this traditional role of the Stars and Stripes is well written in the way our national anthem was born.   This is how:

Though according to the Paris peace treaty in 1783 there was cessation of arms and Britain was compelled to give recognition to the union of 13 colonies, Britain was not yet ready to give up its share of pie from the resourceful New World. On the other hand, Americans who started to operate as a union of 13 states, soon looked for expansion of their territories. The clash of interests, muffled up  for a while by the peace treaty, cast their harrowing shadows over the peace process. Finally, in 1812 the second war between the British, and the Americans who were then committed to expand their territories, broke out. 

The U.S. entered the war ill-prepared. And the ambitious plans to invade Canada were never realized. American warships won three notable victories in duels with British frigates in 1812, But this did not end the war. In fact, it just kept going.

Guarding the entrance to Baltimore harbor via the Patapsco River during the War of 1812, Fort McHenry faced almost certain attack by British forces. Major George Armistead, the stronghold's commander, was ready to defend the fort, but he wanted a flag that would identify his position, and one whose size would be visible to the enemy from a distance. Determined to supply such a flag, a committee of high-ranking officers called on Mary Young Pickersgill. She was a Baltimore widow who had had experience making ship flags, and explained that they wanted a United States flag that measured 30 feet by 42 feet. And, she agreed to the job. 

With the help of her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, Mrs. Pickersgill spent several weeks measuring, cutting, and sewing the 15 stars and stripes. When the time came to sew the elements of the flag together, they realized that their house was not large enough. Mrs. Pickersgill thus asked the owner of nearby Claggett's brewery for permission to assemble the flag on the building's floor during evening hours. He agreed, and the women worked by candlelight to finish it. Once completed, the flag was delivered to the committee, and Mrs. Pickersgill was paid $405.90.

In August 1813, it was presented to Major Armistead. But, as things turned out, more than a year would pass before hostile forces threatened Baltimore. The British headed for Baltimore. On the morning of September 13, 1814, British bomb ships began hurling high-trajectory shells toward Fort McHenry from positions beyond the reach of the fort's guns. The bombardment continued throughout the rainy night. 

In September 1814, the US lawyer Francis Scott Key was sent to the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to secure the release of his friend William Beanes, who had been captured after the defeat of the U.S. forces at Bladensburg, Md. He was detained aboard ship during the shelling of Ft. McHenry, one of the forts that successfully defended Baltimore. During the night of the bombardment, September 13-14, Key's anxiety was at high pitch, and in the morning when he saw the American flag still flying over the fortress, he wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner." Released that day, he rewrote the poem in a Baltimore hotel. It was printed anonymously under the title "Defense of Fort M'Henry" and on September 20 was published by the Baltimore Patriot. Set to the tune of an English drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven," it soon became popular throughout the nation. It was later adopted by the army and navy as the national anthem, and in 1931 it was officially adopted by Congress.

Respect and Care of the Flag ~ Flag Code of the United States


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Information / Sources:
White House.gov
The Holiday Spot
US Flag.Org


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