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The Origins of Flag Day

The Founding Fathers decided the colonists needed one symbol to unify troops.

By:  |  June 14, 2022  |    573 Words
GettyImages-144075924 Flag Day

(Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

This June 14 will be the 106th celebration of the United States flag. For more than a century, Americans have been honoring the nation’s symbol of freedom. But it wasn’t always the flag we know today. During the American Revolution, which started in 1775, the colonists carried many different banners.

In June 1775, in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress was meeting to create the Continental Army. During that time, they decided they needed one flag to represent all the colonists – a unified symbol. The Continental Colors, as the first American flag was named, had 13 red and white alternating stripes, plus the Union Jack sitting prominently in the corner. George Washington, however, realized this symbol greatly resembled the British flag, which made it very confusing on the battlefield.

Two years later, on June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress was writing the Articles of Confederation but paused long enough to pass a resolution on a new design. It declared “The flag of the United States to be 13 stripes, alternate red and white” and that “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

How Flag Day Came to be Celebrated

On May 30, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established Flag Day, saying he hoped Americans would show “significant expression to our thoughtful love of America” on June 14. But there had been flag celebrations long before the commander-in-chief made it official. Bernard Cigrand, for example, in 1885, was a small-town teacher in Wisconsin. He was convinced America should be celebrating its flag and held the first observance for the holiday at his school.

Today, we celebrate and honor the nation’s flag by flying it at our homes and businesses, having barbecues, and throwing parades. Americans decorate their homes and yards with red, white, and blue bows, streamers, and even create fancy cookies with themed frosting.

Fun Facts

Speaking of the colors of the flag, do you know why those particular shades were chosen? The members of the Continental Congress had very specific reasons for their choices.

  • Red stands for hardiness.
  • White stands for purity and innocence.
  • Blue stands for vigilance and justice.
GettyImages-563942901 Founding Fathers and Flag

(Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

What do the stars and stripes mean?

The 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies that fought against the British to gain American freedom. Those 13 colonies were:

GettyImages-1241016188 US Flag

(Photo by Liu Yanan/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The 13 stripes on “Old Glory” still symbolize the original colonies, but instead of 13 stars, today’s flag has 50 to represent every state in the Union.

  • Today’s design was first raised on July 4, 1960, in Maryland over the Fort National Historic Site.
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower made the 50-star design official in August 1959 with an executive order.
  • 51% of Americans have a flag in their home, according to a YouGovAmerica survey.
  • NASA says six American flags have been planted on the moon’s surface.
  • Flying a flag upside down can be used as an official distress signal.
  • According to the Flag Code, the stars and stripes are not to be used as clothes, bedding, or drapery.
  • American flags are supposed to be illuminated by a light source, including the sun, when on display.

How will you celebrate Flag Day?

Test your knowledge – try a quiz based on this article!

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