Baker’s Dozen – Fun Facts About Flag Day

1)  The American flag, or the Stars and Stripes as it is affectionately referred to, originated as a result of a resolution adopted by the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia on June 14, 1777.  The resolution read, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”

2)  Each year on June 14, we celebrate the birthday of the Stars and Stripes.  The Stars and Stripes first flew in a Flag Day celebration in Hartford, Connecticut in 1861, during the first summer of the Civil War.  The first national observance of Flag Day occurred June 14, 1877, the centennial of the original flag resolution.  By the mid 1890’s the observance of Flag Day on June 14 was a popular event.

3)  In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day on June 14.  It was not until 1949 that Congress made this day a permanent observance by resolving “That the 14th day of June of each year is hereby designated as Flag Day.  The measure was signed into law by President Harry Truman.

4)  During the Revolutionary War, several patriots made flags for our new Nation.  Among them were Cornelia Bridges, Elizabeth (Betsy) Ross, and Rebecca Young, all of Pennsylvania, and John Shaw of Annapolis, Maryland.  Although Betsy Ross made flags for 50 years, there is no proof that she made the first Stars and Stripes.  The flag popularly known as the “Betsy Ross flag,” which arranged the stars in a circle, did not appear until the early 1790’s.




Betsy Ross Flag.

5)  When two new States were admitted to the Union (Kentucky and Vermont), a resolution was adopted in January of 1794, expanding the flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes.  This flag was the official flag of our country from 1795 to 1818, and was prominent in many historic events.  It inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

6)  Realizing that the flag would become unwieldy with a stripe for each new State, a suggestion was made to Congress that the stripes remain 13 in number to represent the Thirteen Colonies, and that a star be added to the blue field for each new State coming into the Union.  On April 4, 1818, President Monroe accepted a bill requiring that the flag of the United States have a union of 20 stars, white on a blue field, and that upon admission of each new State into the Union one star be added to the union of the flag on the fourth of July following its date of admission.  The 13 alternating red and white stripes would remain unchanged.  This act succeeded in prescribing the basic design of the flag, while assuring that the growth of the Nation would be properly symbolized.

7)  Eventually, the growth of the country resulted in a flag with 48 stars upon the admission of Arizona and New Mexico in 1912.  Alaska added a 49th in 1959, and Hawaii a 50th star in 1960.  The flag of the United States of America has 13 horizontal stripes–7 red and 6 white–the red and white stripes alternating and a union which consists of white stars of 5 points on a blue field placed in the upper quarter next to the staff and extending to the lower edge of the fourth red stripe from the top.  The number of stars equals the number of States in the Union.  The proportions of the flag was prescribed by Executive Order of President Eisenhower on August 21, 1959.

8)  Traditionally a symbol of liberty, the American flag has carried the message of freedom to many parts of the world.  Sometimes the same flag that was flying at a crucial moment in our history has been flown again in another place to symbolize continuity in our struggles for the cause of liberty.

9)  During the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.  Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.  Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note.  When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.

10)  The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, “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.”  It should be said while standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.  When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.  Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

The Pledge of Allegiance received official recognition by Congress in an Act approved on June 22, 1942, but was first published in 1892 in the Youth’s Companion magazine in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.  It was first used in public schools to celebrate Columbus Day on October 12, 1892.

In its original version, the pledge read “my flag” instead of “the flag of the United States.”  The change in the wording was adopted by the National Flag Conference in 1923.  The rationale for the change was that it prevented ambiguity among foreign-born children and adults who might have the flag of their native land in mind when reciting the pledge.  The phrase “under God” was added to the pledge by a Congressional act approved on June 14, 1954, at the request of The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s organization.  This change was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

So, the next time you hear a debate about the Pledge of Allegiance and references to the founding fathers of our country, you know that The Pledge of Allegiance  was not even written until well after our country was founded, and the original text did not include the words “under God.”

11)  It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open.  However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.  The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

12)  The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather flag is displayed.  The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on New Year’s Day, January 1; Inauguration Day, January 20; Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12; Washington’s Birthday, third Monday in February; Easter Sunday (variable), Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May; Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May: Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May; Flag Day, June 14; Independence Day, July 4; Labor Day, first Monday in September; Constitution Day, September 17; Columbus Day, second Monday in October; Navy Day, October 27; Veterans Day, November 11; Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November; Christmas Day, December 25; and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States; the birthdays of States (date of admission); and on State holidays.

The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.  The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days.  The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.

13)  Any honorably discharged veteran is entitled to a burial flag.  The funeral director, as part of the services, will make the necessary arrangements for the family on behalf of the veteran.  The flag may be used to cover the casket and it is presented to the family as a keepsake.  The local office of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs can also provide information on the procedure for obtaining a flag for a deceased veteran.

When my father died, we decided that our only brother, a Veteran, would receive the burial flag.  The military detail that presented this flag to my brother included a black man and a woman, a fact which we found ironic and more than a little amusing because of my father’s biased attitudes toward both groups.

Source:  U.S. Government Federal Citizen Information Center website

Fly your American flag proudly today!

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