July 4, 1826: Astonishing coincidences on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration

July 4, 2014

You know the story, don’t you? If you don’t, you should commit this one to memory.  It’s not fiction, and if you proposed it for fiction, the editors would reject it as too improbable, or too sappy, a tug on your heartstrings and tear ducts.  It’s true, better than the faux patriot fiction we often get on July 4.

July 4, 2014, is the 238th anniversary of the announcement of the Declaration of Independence.  I hope you’re thinking about how you’ll fly the flag this weekend in honor of the Declaration of Independence.

The resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee calling for independence of the 13 colonies passed the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.  The Declaration would be Thomas Jefferson’s crowning achievement, outshining even his presidency and the Louisiana Purchase.   John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that July 2 would forever be marked by patriotic displays.

But the Declaration itself, which gave teeth to the resolution, was adopted two days later on July 4.  That has come to be the day we celebrate.

Detail, John Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of Independence - Theodor Horydczak photo, Library of Congress

Detail, John Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence – The committee of five presents the Declaration of Independence to John Hancock, the President of the Second Continental Congress; from left, the committee is John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin.  Theodor Horydczak photo, Library of Congress

Adams didn’t miss a beat.  Who quibbles about a couple of days when the celebrating is so good?

Adams and Jefferson were two of the five-member committee the Congress had tasked to write a declaration.  Adams and Ben Franklin quickly determined to leave it up to Jefferson, who had a grand flair with words, and who had just written a couple of stirring documents for Virginia.  Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, the other two members, went along.  And so it was that the Declaration of  Independence is almost completely the work of Thomas Jefferson.

Adams and Jefferson became friends only later, when they both served the nation at war as ambassadors to France, and then for Adams, to England.  A widower, Jefferson was taken in by Abigail Adams who worried about him.  After the war, Jefferson was in England when Adams was to meet King George III in a grand ceremony in which the king would accept the credentials of all the ambassadors of foreign nations to England.  As the king strode down the line, each ambassador or delegation would bow, the king would acknowledge them, the papers would be passed, and the king would move on.  Adams and Jefferson bowed.  King George moved on, ignoring them completely.

In such a case of such a snub, the snubbed foreigners usually made a quick exit.  Adams and Jefferson did not.  They stood at attention as if the king had treated them like all the rest, reversing the snub.  From the beginning, Americans and the United States pushed for more practical, reasonable, and compassionate government and relations.  Standing together, against the snub of the British King one more time, Adams and Jefferson formed a silent bond that held them the rest of their lives.

Back in America in peacetime, and both members of the administration of George Washington, Adams and Jefferson fell out.  Secretary of State Jefferson favored a more limited federal government; Vice President Adams favored a more powerful one.  By the end of Washington’s second term, party politics had been well developed.  Adams defeated Jefferson in the election of 1796.  As was the law then, Jefferson was vice president as the runner-up vote getter in the electoral college; but Adams kept Jefferson out of all government affairs.  Perhaps because he didn’t have Jefferson to help, Adams’s presidency did not go well.  In the rematch election in 1800, one of  the bitterest election fights ever, Jefferson’s party defeated Adams.  The gleeful Democratic-Republican electors all voted one ballot for Jefferson, the presidential candidate, and one ballot for Aaron Burr, the party’s vice presidential candidate.

Alas, that produced a tie vote in the electoral college.  Adams’s party, the Federalists, still held the House of Representatives before the new Congress came in.  A tie vote goes to the House for decision.  They could not bring themselves to vote for Jefferson, and the deadlock continued for 37 ballots.  Finally Jefferson’s former friend but now arch-enemy Alexander Hamilton intervened, explaining that Burr was clearly the greater scoundrel, and the House elected Jefferson.  Adams slunk out of town, avoiding the inauguration.

It wasn’t until after 1809 when Benjamin Rush hoodwinked Jefferson into writing to Adams, and Adams to Jefferson, that the two became friendly again.  For the next 17 years Jefferson and Adams carried on perhaps the greatest series of correspondence in history between two great minds.  Letters went out almost daily, from Monticello, Virginia,  to Braintree, Massachusetts, and from Braintree to Monticello.  They discussed the weather, their families, old times, farming — but especially the republic they had been most instrumental in creating, and how it might be preserved, and made to prosper.  Eventually the letters became harder to read, both because their eyesight was failing, and because their penmanship deteriorated, too.

The ideas, however, flowed like a great river of freedom.  Perhaps this correspondence was the river flowing justice the prophet Amos foretold.

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 15th, 1820 - Library of Congress image

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 15th, 1820. From The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827. Library of Congress image

Both men took ill early in 1826.  This was a landmark year, 50 years since the Declaration of Independence.  In Massachusetts, a grand display of fireworks was planned to cap off a day of feasting and celebration.  Adams hoped he might attend.  In Virginia, a week before, it became clear Jefferson was too ill to venture even as close as Charlottesville for the celebration.  Jefferson sent his regrets to invitations from several celebrations.  Jefferson slept through most of July 3, but awoke about 9:00 p.m., and asked, “This is the fourth?”  It was not.  These are the last significant, recorded words of Jefferson.  He awoke at about 4:00 a.m. on the Fourth of July, 1826, but could not make a rally.  He died at 12:50 in the afternoon.

Adams, too, was too ill to attend the celebrations.  In the late afternoon or early evening of the Fourth, he awoke, and heard the celebration in the town.  Almost as if he had worked just to live to see that particular day, he checked the date.  Realizing he was near the end, happy that he’d seen 50 years after the Declaration, and unaware of the events a few hours earlier that day in Virginia, Adams said, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”  Adams, too, died on July 4, 1826.

Fly your flag July 4th. Remember John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Remember their great work in creating the nation that protects our freedoms today.  Remember their great friendship.  Write a letter to a good friend you’ve not written to lately.

It is Independence Day, a day created and celebrated by great men like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Their spirit survives in us, as we celebrate, and if we remember why we celebrate as friends.

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Fly your flag today! July 4, 2014, 238th anniversary of the public reading of the Declaration of Independence

July 4, 2014

It’s a day of tradition — oddly enough, since we are in reality a very new nation, and Lee’s resolution to declare independence from Britain came on July 2.

A soak in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is nothing if not a steeping in tradition.  Fly your flag today, to celebrate the independence of the American colonies of Britain.

Fourth of July: NPR has already read the Declaration of Independence (or will soon, if you’re up early), PBS is ready to broadcast the Capitol Fourth concert  (maybe a rebroadcast is available, if you’re off at your own town’s fireworks — check your local listings), your town has a parade somewhere this weekend, or a neighboring community does, and fireworks are everywhere.

At the White House, traditionally, new citizens are sworn in — often people who joined our armed forces and fought for our nation, before even getting the privileges of citizenship.  Fireworks on the Capital Mall will be grand, with the White House hosting a few thousand military people and their families from some of the best views.  Traditionally, five photographers, chosen by lottery, get to shoot photos of the fireworks from the windows of the Washington Monument; will that occur, with the Monument shut down from public view for repair from the earthquake?

There will be great fireworks also in Baltimore Harbor over Fort McHenry, the fort whose siege inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-spangled Banner” from his boat in the harbor, in 1814. Firworks will frighten the bluebirds nesting at Yorktown National Battlefield.  I suspect there will be a grand display at Gettysburg, on the 150th anniversary of the end of that battle. July 4, 1863, also marked the end of the Siege of Vicksburg; tradition holds that Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July for 83 years after that. I’ll wager there will be fireworks there tonight.  In Provo, Utah, the city poobahs will have done all they can to try to live up to their self-proclaimed reputation as having the biggest Independence Day celebration in the nation.  The celebration in Prescott, Arizona, is muted by the tragic deaths of 19 Hot Shot firefighters last week; will drought halt the fireworks, too?  There will be fireworks around the Golden Gate Bridge, in Anchorage, Alaska, reflecting on the waters of Pearl Harbor, and probably in Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas Islands.

Fireworks on the Fourth is a long tradition – a tradition that kept John Adams and Thomas Jefferson alive, until they both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in 1826, the sounds of the fireworks letting Adams know the celebration had begun (Adams erroneously celebrated that Jefferson, the Declaration’s author, still lived, unable to know Jefferson had passed just hours earlier).

Remember to put your flag up today.

Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag -- Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

Last flag on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag — Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

If you’re not on the Moon, here are some tips on flag etiquette, how to appropriately fly our national standard.

Also:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site. NASA caption: Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger descent stage comes into focus from the new lower 50 km mapping orbit, image width 102 meters. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

This is mostly an encore post, but I so love that photo of the flag with the Earth in the distance.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4 — Kathryn Knowles’s birthday. We’re always happy the town chimes in with the celebratory spirit.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and the cast of thousands of patriots including George Washington.


Reminder: How to fly the flag on July 4 in 2014

July 4, 2014

Every kid should learn this stuff by third grade, but it’s clear from what we see that they don’t.

Flag flying in front of U.S. Capitol (East side) LOC photo

Flag flying at the eastern front of the U.S. Capitol. Library of Congress photo

So here’s a quick review of dos and don’ts for display and behavior toward the U.S. flag on this most flag-worthy of days, the 4th of July. With a few comments.

1. Fly your flag, from sunup to sundown. If you’re lucky enough to have a flagpole, run the flag up quickly. Retire it slowly at sunset. Then go see fireworks.

2. Display flags appropriately, if not flown from a staff. If suspended from a building or a wall, remember the blue field of stars should always be on the flag’s right — the “northwest corner” or left as you look at it. Do not display a flag flat, parallel to the ground.

3. Salute the flag as it opens the 4th of July parade. In a better world, there would be just one U.S. flag at the opening of the parade, and the entire crowd would rise as it passes them in a great patriotic, emotional wave — civilians with their hands over their hearts, hats off; people in uniform saluting appropriately with hats on. It’s likely that your local parade will not be so crisp. Other entries in the parade will have flags, and many will be displayed inappropriately. A true patriot might rise and salute each one — but that would look silly, perhaps even sillier than those sunshine patriots who display the flag inappropriately. Send them a nice letter this year, correcting their behavior. But don’t be obnoxious about it.

4. Do not display the flag from a car antenna, attached to a window of a car, or attached in the back of a truck. That’s against the Flag Code, which says a flag can only be displayed attached to the right front fender of a car, usually with a special attachment. This means that a lot of the National Guard entries in local parades will be wrongly done, according to the flag code. They defend the flag, and we should not make pests of ourselves about it. Write them a letter commending their patriotism. Enclose the Flag Code, and ask them to stick to it next time. Innocent children are watching.

5. Do not dishonor the flag by abusing it or throwing it on the ground. It’s become popular for a local merchant to buy a lot of little plastic flags and pass them out to parade goers. If there is an advertisement on the flag, that is another violation of the Flag Code. The flag should not be used for commercial purposes. I have, several times, found piles of these flags on the ground, dumped by tired people who were passing them out, or dumped by parade goers who didn’t want to carry the things home. It doesn’t matter if it’s printed on cheap plastic, and made in China — it is our nation’s flag anyway. Honor it. If it is worn, dispose of it soberly, solemnly, and properly.

That’s probably enough for today. When the Flag Desecration Amendment passes — if it ever does — those parade float makers, National Guard soldiers, and merchants, can all be jailed, perhaps. Or punished in other ways.  And wouldn’t that be silly and unproductive?

Until that time, our best hope is to review the rules, obey them, and set examples for others.

Have a wonderful 4th of July! Fly the flag. Read the Declaration of Independence out loud. Love your family, hug them, and feed them well. That’s part of the Pursuit of Happiness that this day honors. It is your right, your unalienable right. Use it wisely, often and well.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

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1914 — photo of Flag Days past, present, and yet to come

June 14, 2014

A guy speaking on Flag Day. Unremarkable, except, look at the year, look at the audience.

Caption from the Library of Congress:  Flag Day exercises, State, War, and Navy Building. Wilson speaking; Bryan, Daniels, [Breckinridge Long], William Phillips, F.D. Roosevelt, etc. present

Caption from the Library of Congress: Flag Day exercises, State, War, and Navy Building. Wilson speaking; Bryan, Daniels, [Breckinridge Long], William Phillips, F.D. Roosevelt, etc. present

Flag Day was marked in 1877 by a few hundred Americans, fresh from celebrating the nation’s centennial, on the centennial date of the resolution from the Second Continental Congress that designated the flag, with stars and stripes.  Pushed by history teachers who used the celebration as a teaching tool, unofficial ceremonies continued across the nation.

President Woodrow Wilson — himself a professor of history and politics — issued a proclamation for a national celebration to continue each year, in 1916.

This photo was taken two years before that proclamation, in the centennial year of the “Star-spangled Banner.”

Professional photographers Harris & Ewing captured Wilson in mid-speech, in declamation form without a public address system or any other amplification.  (I wonder:  Who was the first president to use a microphone and amplification?)

Reporters for newspapers, and maybe an official scribe, work to capture Wilson’s speech in text form; Wilson was probably speaking extemporaneously, without a prepared text.  Whatever Wilson said, his remarks were not captured officially in Presidential Papers, though they may be available in other venues (behind a paywall for me)Wilson’s speech, delivered at 4:00 p.m., was titled “The Meaning of the Flag.”  A few snippets from the speech suggest that it was mostly a diatribe that whipped up sentiment against German immigrants in America, ultimately ending in violence against many U.S. citizens and residents.

The platform was the steps of the State, War and Navy Building, now the West Executive Office Building next door to the White House.  Then the building housed three departments; today State has its own complex in Foggy Bottom, a few blocks away; War was renamed Defense after World War II, and moved across the Potomac to Virginia, to the Pentagon, where the Navy’s chief offices also reside.

On the platform with Wilson were his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, former Congressman from Nebraska who ran for the presidency six times, most famously capturing the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1896 with this “Cross of Gold” speech; and immediately to the left of Wilson in the photo is his young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who would go on to be crippled by polio, then elected Governor of New York and, in 1932, President of the U.S.

In the photo above, Bryan is almost wholly cut out, on the extreme left edge.

Others on the stand include William Phillips, sitting on Roosevelt’s right, though a chilly couple of feet away; Breckinridge Long, to Phillips’s right; and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, in a light colored suit, to Long’s right and Bryan’s left.

You won’t find William Phillips in most history books, but he played important roles in American state affairs for four decades.  Returning early from an assignment in London in 1912, he booked passage on the RMS Olympic, avoiding passage on the grander, RMS Titanic a week later.  An odd little history of the Olympic gives a great, brief description of Phillips’s career:

A career diplomat, he would shortly go on to work closely with Woodrow Wilson and to be involved in the latter’s 14-point peace plan following the Great European War.

Wilson made him an Assistant Secretary of State, and Phillips would later be Ambassador to Italy at the time of Mussolini. Later in the war he became London head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, forerunner of the CIA), and would come into contact with an operative named Walter Lord.

Breckinridge Long also held important posts over 40 years, but his legacy is much less happy.  As Assistant Secretary of State for Visas during World War II, Long set up obstacles to U.S. immigration by people who were threatened by Nazi governments in European nations, sometimes countermanding orders from President Franklin Roosevelt.

Josephus Daniels, son of a southern shipbuilder murdered for his Union sympathies during the Civil War, published newspapers in North Carolina most of his life.  President Wilson appointed him Secretary of the Navy, where he became close friends with his Assistant Secretary Franklin Roosevelt; FDR appointed Daniels Ambassador to Mexico.  Among Daniels’s newspaper holdings was the Raleigh News and Observer.  An opponent of the Ku Klux Klan, Daniels argues for white supremacy, and claimed that African Americans would block progressive reforms.

No, “cup of joe” is not a reference to Josephus Daniels and his order banning alcohol from Navy officers’ messes.

On that speaker’s stand, on Flag Day, 1914, were the president and a future president, experience dating back to the Civil War and future leadership through the end of World War II.  Interesting photo.

Your flag is already flying for Flag Day, right?

Absent in most photos of the dignitaries at Wilson's speech:  The U.S. flag.  This photo, from farther back, shows the U.S. Marine Band, which played for the occasion, and the U.S. flag on the main pole in front of the State, War and Navy Building.  Photo from the Lincoln Highway National Archives and Museum.

Absent in most photos of the dignitaries at Wilson’s speech: The U.S. flag. This photo, from farther back, shows the U.S. Marine Band, which played for the occasion, and the U.S. flag on the main pole in front of the State, War and Navy Building. William Jennings Bryan is more clearly shown, also, on the left of the row of seats behind Wilson. Photo from the Lincoln Highway National Archives and Museum.


Flag Day 2014 – Fly your flag June 14! Oh, and sing!

June 13, 2014

Of course, you’re ready to fly your Stars and Stripes on Saturday, June 14, right?

Again, I’m on the road.  But Flag Day 2014 is a biggie — 2014 also the bicentennial of the night (in September) the British invaded Baltimore — the Battle of Baltimore, and the Battle of Baltimore Harbor, during the War of 1812.  On that night, Georgetown, D.C., lawyer Francis Scott Key negotiated the release of a physician the British captured during their raid on Washington, D.C., and environs.  But, the British officers didn’t want Key to be able to reveal what he might have learned about their next target, Baltimore.  So they put Key on a boat to watch as they invaded Baltimore, trying to capture the fort that guarded the harbor, Fort McHenry.

Yes, THAT battle.  Key saw the flag at the fort flying, under extreme bombardment, at sunset.  The bombardment continued through night.  At dawn, on September 14, 1814, Key saw that the massive flag at Fort McHenry still flew, meaning the British invasion failed.

He was inspired to write poem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry.”  You know the opening line:

“O! Say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?”

History by Zim has a more detailed account — and this photo, noted as probably the first photograph of that same flag.

From History by Zim:

From History by Zim: “This is the first known photograph of the American flag taken on June 21, 1873 by George Henry Preble. The flag was flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland during an infamous battle between the British and the United States during the War of 1812. Photo Credit: National Star-Spangled Banner Centennial, Baltimore, Maryland, September 6 to 13, 1914.”

Flag Day, June 14th, marks the anniversary of the resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, adopting the Stars and Stripes as the national flag.

Fly your flag today. This is one of the score of dates upon which Congress suggests we fly our U.S. flags.

Flag Day 1916, parade in Washington, D.C. - employees of National Geographic Society march - photo by Gilbert Grosvenor

Flag Day 1916, parade in Washington, D.C. – employees of National Geographic Society march – photo by Gilbert Grosvenor

The photo above drips with history. Here’s the description from the National Geographic Society site:

One hundred and fifty National Geographic Society employees march in the Preparedness Parade on Flag Day, June 14, in 1916. With WWI underway in Europe and increasing tensions along the Mexican border, President Woodrow Wilson marched alongside 60,000 participants in the parade, just one event of many around the country intended to rededicate the American people to the ideals of the nation.

Not only the anniversary of the day the flag was adopted by Congress, Flag Day is also the anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower’s controversial addition of the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

(Text adapted from “:Culture: Allegiance to the Pledge?” June 2006, National Geographic magazine)

The first presidential declaration of Flag Day was 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson won re-election the following November with his pledge to keep America out of World War I, but by April of 1917 he would ask for a declaration of war after Germany resumed torpedoing of U.S. ships. The photo shows an America dedicated to peace but closer to war than anyone imagined. Because the suffragettes supported Wilson so strongly, he returned the favor, supporting an amendment to the Constitution to grant women a Constitutional right to vote. The amendment passed Congress with Wilson’s support and was ratified by the states.

The flags of 1916 should have carried 48 stars. New Mexico and Arizona were the 47th and 48th states, Arizona joining the union in 1913. No new states would be added until Alaska and Hawaii in 1959. That 46-year period marked the longest time the U.S. had gone without adding states, until today. No new states have been added since Hawaii, more than 49 years ago. (U.S. history students: Have ever heard of an essay, “Manifest destiny fulfilled?”)

150 employees of the National Geographic Society marched, and as the proud CEO of any organization, Society founder Gilbert H. Grosvenor wanted a photo of his organization’s contribution to the parade. Notice that Grosvenor himself is the photographer.

I wonder if Woodrow Wilson took any photos that day, and where they might be hidden.

History of Flag Day from a larger perspective, from the Library of Congress:

Since 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation establishing a national Flag Day on June 14, Americans have commemorated the adoption of the Stars and Stripes by celebrating June 14 as Flag Day. Prior to 1916, many localities and a few states had been celebrating the day for years. Congressional legislation designating that date as the national Flag Day was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1949; the legislation also called upon the president to issue a flag day proclamation every year.

According to legend, in 1776, George Washington commissioned Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to create a flag for the new nation. Scholars debate this legend, but agree that Mrs. Ross most likely knew Washington and sewed flags. To date, there have been twenty-seven official versions of the flag, but the arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers’ preferences until 1912 when President Taft standardized the then-new flag’s forty-eight stars into six rows of eight. The forty-nine-star flag (1959-60), as well as the fifty-star flag, also have standardized star patterns. The current version of the flag dates to July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959.

Fly your flag with pride today.

Elmhurst Flag Day 1939, DuPage County Centennial - Posters From the WPA

Elmhurst flag day, June 18, 1939, Du Page County centennial / Beauparlant.
Chicago, Ill.: WPA Federal Art Project, 1939.
By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943

This is an encore post, from June 14, 2009, and other previous Flag Days.

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Memorial Day 2014: Fly your flag, with proper etiquette

May 26, 2014

Caption from Wikipedia:  Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (May 31, 2004) - Sailors assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor bring the flag to half-mast over the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in honor of Memorial Day May 31, 2004. U.S. Navy photo

Caption from Wikipedia: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (May 31, 2004) – Sailors assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor bring the flag to half-mast over the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in honor of Memorial Day May 31, 2004. U.S. Navy photo

Monday, May 26, 2014, is Memorial Day in the U.S.  It’s the day we honor soldiers who died, either fighting to defend the nation, or after.

Because it honors the dead, the flag-flying rules differ slightly.

If you’re flying your flag from a staff that allows raising and lowering, the flag should be posted at half-staff in the morning at sunrise.  At noon, the flag goes to full-staff position.

Usual flag-raising rules apply: Going up the staff, the flag rises briskly.  Coming down, it sinks slowly.

Before going to the half-staff position to honor the dead, the flag should be raised briskly to the top of the pole, and then brought down slowly to half-staff. At noon, again, the flag rises briskly.  And at retreat, at sundown, the flag comes down slowly.

Most Americans have a flag that attaches to the wall of a residence, or in other ways is not capable of raising and lowering.  In that case, simply post the the flag.

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Fly your flag May 17, 2014, for Armed Forces Day

May 17, 2014

Poster for Armed Forces Day 2014. Download images, here.

Poster for Armed Forces Day 2014. Download images, here.

Armed Forces Day is the third Saturday in May, May 17th in 2014.

New machines on the poster this year!

See President Obama’s proclamation of Armed Forces Day 2014 here.

A bit of history, as we’ve noted earlier:  After President Truman’s administration brought the management of the armed forces under the umbrella of one agency, the Department of Defense, Truman moved also to unite what had been a separate day of honor for each of the branches of the military, into one week capped by one day for all uniformed defense services.

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department — the Department of Defense. Each of the military leagues and orders was asked to drop sponsorship of its specific service day in order to celebrate the newly announced Armed Forces Day. The Army, Navy and Air Force leagues adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day, too.

In a speech announcing the formation of the day, President Truman “praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas” and said, “it is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.” In an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Mr. Truman stated:

Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.

Celebrations like Armed Forces Day offer good opportunities to promote history. I suspect that the day’s coming always in the middle of May suppresses some of the teaching moment value, as teachers make a final push for end of course tests, finals, and in high schools, for graduation — and as many colleges are already out for the summer. Good materials are available that can be sprinkled throughout a course.

Photograph of President Truman and other digni...

President Truman and other dignitaries on the reviewing stand during an Armed Forces Day parade, (left… – NARA – 200222 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (Is that Eisenhower on the left?)

For example, this list of world-wide events at the first Armed Forces Day, in 1950, gives a good picture of four years into the Cold War, and would make a good warm-up exercise or even an entire lesson, or offer opportunities for projects:

The first Armed Forces Day came at a time of increased world tensions, political volatility and communist aggression. Some notable events that marked America’s first Armed Forces Week were as follows:

  • Bolivian police broke up “alleged” revolutionary communist-led general strike in LaPaz.
  • Two U. S. government buildings in Canton, China were taken over by the Chinese Communist Government. The buildings were U. S. property acquired prior to the Communist takeover.
  • The Burmese Army recaptured the city of Prome, a strategic communist-rebel stronghold.
  • Nicaraguans elect General Anastasio Somoza to a regular six-year term as president.
  • French and West German governments expected to talk shortly on the merger of the coal and steel industries of the two countries.
  • Communist China lifted the ban on daylight shipping along the Yangtze River due to the decline of Nationalist air activity.
  • Norway receives first US military aid in the form of two Dakota planes.
  • U. N. Secretary General Trygive Lie seeks West’s acceptance of Red China in the U. N.
  • Iran announced close range news broadcasts to the Soviet Union with $56,000 worth of Voice of America equipment.
  • Cuba celebrated the 48th anniversary of the establishment of its republic.
  • The Red Cross celebrated its 69th birthday.
  • Britain ended rationing of all foods except meats, butter, margarine, and cooking fat.
  • The U. S. Congress voted to extend the draft. “A Bill to extend registration and classification for the Draft until June 24, 1952 passed the House 216-11.”
  • The Allied Command announced it would “ease” the burden of occupation on Austria and would name civilian high commissioners to replace present military high commissioners.
  • Soviet authorities in Berlin withdrew travel passes of the U.S. and British military missions stationed at Potsdam in the Soviet zone of occupation.
  • The Soviets returned 23 East German industrial plants to East German authorities. The plants had been producing exclusively for the benefit of reparations to the USSR.
  • Twenty-eight Soviet vessels, consisting of tugs, trawlers, and supply ships remained in the English Channel as the Western Alliance prepared for air and naval maneuvers. Observers noted that many of them carried rollers at their sterns for trawling nets although no nets were visible.
  • Pravda denounced Armed Forces Day, calling it the militarization of the United States. “The hysterical speeches of the warmongers again show the timeliness of the appeal of the Permanent Committee of Peace Partisans that atomic weapons be forbidden.”
  • Western Powers renewed their promise to help Mid-Eastern states resist communism. They also announced an agreement to sell arms to Israel as well as to the Arabs.

Veterans Day honors veterans of wars, and those who served in the past; Memorial Day honors people who died defending the nation; Armed Forces Day honors those men and women serving today.  Service with two wars, in an “all volunteer” military, is a rough go, especially in times of federal budget cuts.  Say a good word about active duty military on Saturday, will you?

Armed Forces Day 1952, DOD Archives photo

A photo from Defense archives, of Armed Forces Day 1952 — also on May 17; DOD caption: QUOTING BENJAMIN FRANKLIN – Servicemen and women comprise this poster, which features cautionary words of Benjamin Franklin. (AFD-1952) [Franklin quote:  Let us beware of being lulled into a dangerous security, and of being weakened by internal contentions and divisions . . . of neglect in military exercises and discipline, and in providing stores of arms and munitions of war, for . . . the expenses required to prevent war are much lighter than those that will, if not prevented, be necessary to maintain it.  Benjamin Franklin, 1784.  Franklin's words were in a letter to Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the 2nd Continental Congress, on May 13, 1784, written from his station in Passy, France.]

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Flying your flag for Mothers Day?

May 11, 2014

Mothers Day is one of those days designated in law as an appropriate time to fly your U.S. flag.

Are you flying yours today?

Cory Amaro's mother among flags flown in memory of military people, on Memorial Day. One of the few images I could find of a mother with U.S. flags.

Corey Amaro’s mother among flags flown in memory of military people, on Memorial Day. One of the few images I could find of a mother with U.S. flags. (Click the image to go to Amaro’s blog for a touching little story.)


Presidents Day 2014: Fly your flag today

February 17, 2014

Come on, you didn’t really need me to remind you, did you? It’s Presidents’ Day on most calendars, though the official U.S. holiday is Washington’s Birthday.

You’re already flying your flag today, right?  Let’s recapitulate from last year

Dr. Bumsted reminds us we need to emphasize that the federal holiday is Washington’s Birthday, not a day to honor presidents generically.  See the explanation from the U.S. National Archives.

Presidents Day is February 17, 2014 — fly your U.S. flag today.

National Park Service photo, Lincoln Memorial through flags at Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial, seen through flags posted at the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.; National Park Service Photo via About.com

Oddly enough, some controversy arises from time to time over how to honor President Washington and President Lincoln, and other presidents.  Sometimes the controversy simmers over how to honor great Americans — if Lincoln deserves a day, why not FDR?  Why not Jefferson? — and sometimes the controversy covers more mundane ground — should the federal government give workers a day off?  Should it be on a Monday or Friday to create a three-day weekend to boost tourism?  About.com explains the history of the controversy:

Presidents’ Day is intended (for some) to honor all the American presidents, but most significantly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. According to the Gregorian or “New Style” calendar that is most commonly used today, George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. But according to the Julian or “Old Style” calendar that was used in England until 1752, his birth date was February 11th. Back in the 1790s, Americans were split – some celebrated his birthday on February 11th and some on February 22nd.

When Abraham Lincoln became president and helped reshape our country, it was believed he, too, should have a special day of recognition. Tricky thing was that Lincoln’s birthday fell on February 12th. Prior to 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn’t seem to bother anyone. February 22nd was observed as a federal public holiday to honor the birthday of George Washington and February 12th was observed as a public holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

In 1968, things changed when the 90th Congress was determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays. They voted to shift three existing holidays (including Washington’s Birthday) to Mondays. The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington’s Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. But not all Americans were happy with the new law. There was some concern that Washington’s identity would be lost since the third Monday in February would never fall on his actual birthday. There was also an attempt to rename the public holiday “Presidents’ Day”, but the idea didn’t go anywhere since some believed not all presidents deserved a special recognition. [Take THAT you Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore fans!]

Even though Congress had created a uniform federal holiday law, there was not a uniform holiday title agreement among the individual states. Some states, like California, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas chose not to retain the federal holiday title and renamed their state holiday “President’s Day.” From that point forward, the term “Presidents’ Day” became a marketing phenomenon, as advertisers sought to capitalize on the opportunity for three-day or week-long sales.

In 1999, bills were introduced in both the U.S. House (HR-1363) and Senate (S-978) to specify that the legal public holiday once referred to as Washington’s Birthday be “officially” called by that name once again. Both bills died in committees.

Today, President’s Day is well accepted and celebrated. Some communities still observe the original holidays of Washington and Lincoln, and many parks actually stage reenactments and pageants in their honor. The National Park Service also features a number of historic sites and memorials to honor the lives of these two presidents, as well as other important leaders.

Fly your flag, read some history, enjoy the day.

More, Resources, and Related Articles:

English: Air Force One, the typical air transp...

President’s airplane, Air Force 1, flying over Mount Rushmore National Monument, in South Dakota – Image via Wikipedia; notice, contrary to Tea Party fears, the bust of Obama is not yet up on Rushmore (and also note there remains no room for another bust).

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  This event occurs every year.


Fly your flag on Valentine’s Day 2014? Okay in Oregon and Arizona

February 14, 2014

Some wag e-mailed to ask about flying the flag for Valentine’s Day.

Reverse of Oregon quarter

Oregon entered as the 33rd state in 1859 – this is the Oregon commemorative quarter-dollar coin.

Legally, nothing stops a resident from flying the U.S. flag following protocol on any day.  So the short answer is, yes, you may fly your U.S. flag on Valentine’s Day.

The Flag Code urges flying the flag on the day a state achieved statehood, too.

So for Oregon and Arizona, there is an expectation that residents will fly their flags.  Oregon came into the union on February 14, 1859; Arizona joined the Republic as a state in 1912.

Taft signs Arizona statehood papers, February 14, 1912

President William Howard Taft signed the papers accepting Arizona into statehood, on February 14, 1912. He still finished third behind Democrat Woodrow Wilson and Bullmoose Party’s Teddy Roosevelt in that fall’s elections. Photo found at Mrs. Convir’s page, Balboa Magnet School  (Can you identify others in the photo?  Who is the young man?)

For 2014, Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkeley posted an appropriate photo and meditation on Oregon at his Facebook site:

Jeff Merkley's caption:  Protected by President Teddy Roosevelt, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, formed in the caldera of Mount Mazama, a volcano that collapsed nearly 8000 years ago. It's a must-see for every Oregonian - and every American!

Jeff Merkley’s caption: Protected by President Teddy Roosevelt, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, formed in the caldera of Mount Mazama, a volcano that collapsed nearly 8000 years ago. It’s a must-see for every Oregonian – and every American!

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Some of this material was borrowed, with express permission, from last year’s post at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.


Fly your flag for Martin Luther King Day, 2014

January 20, 2014

I don’t really need to remind you to fly your flag today, right?  You’ve already got it waving.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Credit: architecture.about.com - See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2013/12/statue-of-martin-luther-king-jr-proposed-for-georgias-state-capitol/#sthash.TKrjYCX7.dpuf

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Credit: architecture.about.com, via Saporta Report

Fly the U.S. flag today for the holiday for the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January.

Many Americans will celebrate with a day of service.

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2014 Google Doodle for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

2014 Google Doodle for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day


Fly your flag today for Utah statehood, January 4, 1896

January 4, 2014

Utah Capitol, with flags

South entrance (main) to the Utah State Capitol, with U.S. and Utah flags flying on the single flag poll, and the snow-dusted Wasatch Mountains in the background. Utah State Law Library photo.

Utah joined the Union on January 4, 1896.  It had been a 49-year slog to statehood for Deseret, the Mormon settlement in the Desert.  The size had been pared down, so it would not be the biggest state, incorporating parts of what is now Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico.  New capitals had been tried and cast aside (Fillmore, Utah).  Democratic Party rule was broken when LDS church authorities went door-to-door, calling every other family to the Republican Party, and party parity.  The Mormon Church abandoned polygamy, and adopted a state constitution that gave the vote to women.

Finally, Utah became the 45th state.

You may fly your U.S. flag today for Utah statehood, especially if you’re in Utah.

Happy birthday, Utah!  118 years old today.

More:

U.S. flag in Capitol Reef NP

U.S. flag flying at Capitol Reef National Park, in Utah. Photo by longyang0369, via Flickr

Much of this material appeared here before; this is an annual event, after all.


Iowans, fly your flags today: Iowa Statehood, December 28, 1846

December 28, 2013

Iowans may fly their flags today in celebration of the anniversary of Iowa statehood.  Iowa’s admission to the Union came on December 28, 1846; Iowa was the 29th state admitted.

The Flag Code, 4 USC §6 (d), notes that the U.S. flag may be flown on “the birthdays of States (date of admission),” in addition to the other score of dates specifically written into law.

Randy Olson photo of flags at rodeo in Spencer, Iowa, 1996

American Flag, Spencer, Iowa, 1996caption from the National Geographic Society: A man rolls up U.S. flags at the end of the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa. “Although the population of Spencer is only about 12,000, the fair draws some 300,000 visitors. Once a year, rising from the endless flatness of the Iowa countryside, a crowd forms—to stroll, to hear big country music acts like the Statler Brothers, to sell a grand champion boar, to buy a new silo.” (Photographed on assignment for, but not published in, “County Fairs,” October 1997, National Geographic magazine) Photograph by Randy Olson; copyright National Geographic Society

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Fly your flag today: President Obama invites flag-flying to remember Pearl Harbor, 72 years ago

December 7, 2013

Flag flies at half-staff over the USS Utah, in Pearl Harbor (2004 photo - Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (May 31, 2004) - Sailors assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor bring the flag to half-mast over the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in honor of Memorial Day May 31, 2004. U.S. Navy photo

Flag flies at half-staff over the USS Utah, in Pearl Harbor (2004 photo – Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (May 31, 2004) – Sailors assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor bring the flag to half-mast over the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in honor of Memorial Day May 31, 2004. U.S. Navy photo)

Proclamation from President Obama (links added):

For Immediate Release

December 05, 2013

Presidential Proclamation — National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, 2013

NATIONAL PEARL HARBOR REMEMBRANCE DAY, 2013

- – – – – – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

More than seven decades ago, on a calm Sunday morning, our Nation was attacked without warning or provocation. The bombs that fell on the island of Oahu took almost 2,400 American lives, damaged our Pacific Fleet, challenged our resilience, and tested our resolve. On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the men and women who selflessly sacrificed for our country, and we show our enduring gratitude to all who fought to defend freedom against the forces of tyranny and oppression in the Second World War.

In remembrance of Pearl Harbor and to defend our Nation against future attacks, scores of young Americans enlisted in the United States military. In battle after battle, our troops fought with courage and honor. They took the Pacific theater island by island, and eventually swept through Europe, liberating nations as they progressed. Because of their extraordinary valor, America emerged from this test as we always do — stronger than ever before.

We also celebrate those who served and sacrificed on the home front — from families who grew Victory Gardens or donated to the war effort to women who joined the assembly line alongside workers of every background and realized their own power to build a brighter world. Together, our Greatest Generation overcame the Great Depression, and built the largest middle class and strongest economy in history.

Today, with solemn pride and reverence, let us remember those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor, acknowledge everyone who carried their legacy forward, and reaffirm our commitment to upholding the ideals for which they served.

The Congress, by Public Law 103-308, as amended, has designated December 7 of each year as “National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 7, 2013, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I encourage all Americans to observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I urge all Federal agencies and interested organizations, groups, and individuals to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff this December 7 in honor of those American patriots who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

So, while this day is not listed in the U.S. Flag Code as a day to fly the flag, you certainly may fly it out of respect for veterans of Pearl Harbor and World War II; and now there is a presidential proclamation urging us to fly the flag, half staff.  If you can’t fly your flag at half-staff, fly it at full staff.

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Photo from 2011:  Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Willard, pay their respects at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Wednesday, August 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Photo from 2011: Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Willard, pay their respects at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Wednesday, August 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

President Barack Obama places a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama places a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Fly your flag today, another way of giving thanks

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving is one of the days designated in the Flag Code for Americans to fly their U.S. flags.  I know it’s cold — think of the veterans in the snows of Korea, the snows of Finland, or Valley Forge.  Go fly that flag!

U.S. flag flying at the Post Office in Mooresville, Alabama.  This is the oldest operating post office in the state.  Image from Original Green

U.S. flag flying at the Post Office in Mooresville, Alabama. This is the oldest operating post office in the state. Image from Original Green

Last year I noted some of the history of the holiday — check out that post.

In 1782, the 2nd Continental Congress declared a thanks giving on November 28.  Here’s the notice from a New Hampshire newspaper.

State of New-Hampshire. In Committee of Safety, Exeter, November 1, 1782 : Ordered, that the following proclamation for a general thanksgiving on the twenty-eighth day of November instant, received from the honorable Continental Congress, be forthwith printed ...

State of New-Hampshire. In Committee of Safety, Exeter, November 1, 1782 : Ordered, that the following proclamation for a general thanksgiving on the twenty-eighth day of November instant, received from the honorable Continental Congress, be forthwith printed …  From the American Memories Collection at the Library of Congress.

So let Old Glory free, today.


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