Today, June 14, is Flag Day. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The United States Army also celebrates its birthday on this date.
The tradition of the first flag day observance began on June 14th, 1885. Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19- year-old teacher at Stony Hill School in Waubeka Wisconsin, placed a 10 inch, 38- star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance. This observance was also the beginning of Cigrand’s long years of fervent and devoted effort to bring about national recognition and observance of Flag Day. The crowning achievement of his life came at age fifty when President Wilson, on May 30, 1916, issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day. Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day.
Flag Day is not an official federal holiday; it is at the President’s discretion to officially proclaim the observance. On June 14, 1937, Pennsylvania became the first (and only) state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday. New York statutes also designate the second Sunday in June a state holiday as Flag Day.
Perhaps the oldest continuing Flag Day parade is at Fairfield, Washington. Beginning in 1909 or 1910, Fairfield has held a parade every year since, and celebrated the “Centennial” parade in 2010, along with s other commemorative events.
One of the longest-running Flag Day parades is held annually in Quincy, Massachusetts, which began in 1952. The 59th Annual Appleton, Wisconsin 2009 Flag Day Parade featured the U.S. Navy. The largest Flag Day parade is held annually in Troy, New York, which bases its parade on the Quincy parade and typically draws 50,000 spectators.
Federal law stipulates many aspects of flag etiquette. The section of law dealing with American Flag etiquette is generally referred to as the Flag Code. Some general guidelines from the Flag Code answer many of the most common questions:
- The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.
- The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.
- The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
- The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
- The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
- The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
- The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind placed on it, or attached to it.
- The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
- When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
- The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
- When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
Read a more comprehensive set of flagetiquette rules for display of the American Flag.
Do you celebrate Flag Day? Do you fly a flag?