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.
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.
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.
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, 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
More, and Other Voices:
- Nation celebrates Flag Day to commemorate adoption in 1777 (charlotte.news14.com)
- Diatribe: Has Flag Day Been Forgotten? (diatribesandovations.com)
- Flag Day (acpladult.wordpress.com)
- Celebrating Flag Day (nickidwyer.typepad.com)
- Flag Day ceremony draws on rich local heritage (limaohio.com)
- Flag Day… June 14th – FDR’s Progressive Flag Day Address (askmarion.wordpress.com)
- Today is Flag Day & US Army Birthday (fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com)
- Grand Old Flag (greetingcarduniverse.com)
- It’s Flag Day – Here’s how to fly Old Glory properly (pennlive.com)
- Celebrate the American flag on Flag Day, June 14 (buildabear.com)
- “Why isn’t Flag Day a federal holiday?” at The Christian Science Monitor
- Flag Day, at Unexpected in Common Hours
- 10 things about Flag Day, from What so Proudly We Hail