Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14th: Flag Day - A little History

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the First Flag Act:  "Resolved:  That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."  The exact design is frequently attributed to Congressman Francis Hopkinson of Philadelphia.  However, when he petitioned Congress for payment of his idea, he was turned down on the bases that others had contributed to the design.  Today the first official US flag is referred to as the Betsy Ross Flag (pictured).  However, the claim that she sewed the first flag has never been substantiated.  Since the Betsy Ross Flag, the official American flag has changed 26 times.  With the admission of Vermont and Kentucky, the second flag was approved in 1795. It not only added a star but a strip for each of the new states.  It is referred to as the Star Spangle Banner because it was the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814.  In 1818, with admission of 5 new states, the next change was made but it was decided that only stars would be added and the strips would stay at 13 for the original 13 colonies.  Between 1819 and 1877 the flag changed 17 times with the longest continuous time for one flag being 10 years.  During both the administration of Presidents Monroe and Polk it changed 5 times.  In 1890 it jumped from 38 stars to 44 and then changed 4 more times by 1912.  This flag stayed at 48 stars for the next 47 years.  Alaska added the 49th star in 1959 and Hawaii completed the present flag at 50 in 1960.  Today National Flag Day is celebrated on June 14th in commemoration of the First Flag Act.  We can thank BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher from Fredonia, WI for being behind the holiday.  In 1885, Cigrand started promoting June 14 as “Flag Birthday or Flag Day”.  However, even though localities and some states picked up on honoring the day, it wasn’t until 1949 that President Truman signed an Act of Congress making it a National holiday.