Presidents Day 2015: Fly your flag today

February 16, 2015

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 16, 2015 — 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.


Utah at 119 years: Fly your flag today for Utah statehood, January 4, 1896

January 4, 2015

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!  119 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.


January 3, 1959: Welcome, Alaska, and the 49-star flag — 55 years ago

January 3, 2015

Alaska Territorial Gov. Bob Bartlett in center, with the 49-star flag (Bartlett was one of Alaska's first U.S. senators).

Alaska Territorial Gov. Bob Bartlett in center, with the 49-star flag (Bartlett was one of Alaska’s first U.S. senators).

The great service at the New York Times site, the Learning Network, notes the 1959 Dwight Eisenhower proclamation of Alaska as the 49th state, and the unveiling of the 49-star flag:

On Jan. 3, 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Alaska to the Union as the 49th state. The New York Times noted that the signing included the unveiling of the new 49-star American flag.

The land that became Alaska came into U.S. possession in 1867, when William Seward, secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson, negotiated a deal to buy the 586,000-square-mile area from Russia for $7.2 million, less than 2 cents per acre. Seward’s decision was ridiculed in the American press, who saw no potential in the vast, inhospitable and sparsely populated area.

For decades after its purchase, Alaska was derided as “Seward’s folly” or “Seward’s icebox.” This opinion changed in 1896 with the discovery of gold in the neighboring Yukon Territory, which spurred tens of thousands of people to head to Alaska in search of gold. The gold rush also brought about a boom in mining, fishing and trapping.

Though the first statehood bill had been presented to Congress in 1916, there was little desire in either Alaska or Washington for Alaskan statehood until after World War II. During the war, the U.S. established multiple military bases to resist Japan’s attacks on Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and prevent a potential invasion of the mainland. The military activity, along with the completion of a major highway from Montana, led to a large population growth.

In 1946, Alaskans voted in favor of statehood in a referendum and Alaskan delegates began to lobby Congress for statehood. After years of debate, Congress voted in June 1958 to admit Alaska.

Eight months after Alaska’s admission, on Aug. 21, 1957 [should be 1959, no?], Hawaii became the 50th state. The 49-star remained in place until the following July 4, when it was replaced by the now-familiar 50-star flag.

49-star flags were produced only until August 1959, so there are few of them around.  I love this photo of the unveiling of the flag with President Eisenhower:

President Eisenhower and Quartermaster General MG Andrew T. McNamara, with 49-star flag - image from QM foundation

“Quartermaster General MG Andrew T. McNamara and President Eisenhower examine new 49 star flag” – image and caption from the Quartermaster Foundation. (Who are the other two people?  The guy on the right looks to me a bit like is Pennsylvania’s Sen. Hugh Scott.)

It had been about 47 years since the previous state admission (Arizona); people became aware that no law set what the flag should look like.  President Eisenhower issued a directive.

How did the nation survive for 170 years without firm, decisive and conclusive orders on what the flag should look like?  Isn’t it a great story that we went so long without law setting the requirements?

Alaska's state flag design came from 13-year old Benny Benson.

Alaska’s state flag design came from 13-year old Benny Benson. Benny Benson holding the Alaska flag at the Jesse Lee Home, Seward, Alaska. ASL-P01-1921, Alaska State Library-Historical Collections.

 

Alaska’s state flag came from the imagination of a 13-year-old Aleut, Benny Benson, winning a contest to design the state’s flag.  Alaska’s flag stands out in any display of U.S. state flags.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Fly your U.S. flags on these dates in January

January 3, 2015

Flag House in 1936, 844 East Pratt & Albemarle Streets (Baltimore, Independent City, Maryland) (cropped). Image courtesy of the federal HABS—Historic American Buildings Survey of Maryland.

Flag House in 1936, where Mary Pickersgill sewed the garrison-sized, 15-star flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore in 1814; one of the sites where the U.S. flag may be flown 24 hours. The house is at 844 East Pratt & Albemarle Streets (Baltimore, Independent City, Maryland). Cropped image courtesy of the federal HABS—Historic American Buildings Survey of Maryland.

January is loaded with flag flying dates, when we add in statehood days, dates those states are invited to fly their U.S. flags.

In January, the U.S. Flag Code urges citizens to fly flags on these dates:

  • New Year’s Day, January 1, a federal holiday
  • Martin Luther King’s Birthday, a federal holiday on the third Monday of January; that date is January 18, in 2014; King’s actual birthday is January 19, and you may fly your flag then, too
  • Inauguration Day, January 20, the year after election years (next one in 2017)
  • January 2, Georgia Statehood Day
  • January 3, Alaska Statehood Day
  • January 4, Utah Statehood Day
  • January 6, New Mexico Statehood Day
  • January 9, Connecticut Statehood Day
  • January 26, Michigan Statehood Day
  • January 29, Kansas Statehood Day

You may fly your flag any other day you wish, too; flags should not be flown after sundown unless they are specially lighted, or at one of the few places designated by Congress or Presidential Proclamation for 24-hour flag flying.  According to Wikipedia’s listing, those sites include:

  • Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland (Presidential Proclamation No. 2795, July 2, 1948).
  • Flag House Square, Albemarle and Pratt Streets, Baltimore, Maryland (Public Law 83-319, approved March 26, 1954).
  • Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial), Arlington, Virginia (Presidential Proclamation No. 3418, June 12, 1961).
  • Lexington Battle Green, Lexington, Massachusetts (Public Law 89-335, approved November 8, 1965).
  • White House, Washington, D.C. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4000, September 4, 1970).
  • Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4064, July 6, 1971, effective July 4, 1971).
  • Any port of entry to the United States which is continuously open (Presidential Proclamation No. 413 1, May 5, 1972).
  • Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (Public Law 94-53, approved July 4, 1975).

Texas Statehood, December 29, 1845 – 169 years ago

December 29, 2014

It’s Texas Statehood day, the 169th anniversary of Texas joining the Union — or as some Texans prefer, the anniversary of Texas’s making America great.

According to the U.S. flag code, people should fly their U.S. flags on their state’s statehood day.

Not many Texans are, if any. Can you find someone honoring statehood day?

texas our texas

U.S. and Texas flags at the Texas Capitol – photo: jmtimages

169 years ago today: Rub your pet armadillo’s belly, slaughter the fatted longhorn, crank up the barbecue pit with the mesquite wood, put Willie Nelson and Bob Wills on the mp3 player, put the “Giant” DVD on the television, and raise your glass of Big Red, Dr. Pepper, or Lone Star Beer (or Pearl, or Shiner Bock, or Llano Wine).

U.S. Flag Code rules urge flying the U.S. flag on the anniversary of a state’s joining the Union — even as much as that will frost the tiny band of desperate Texas secessionists.  (Will the secessionists fly the Texas flag at half-staff?)

Texas was admitted to the union of the United States of America on December 29, 1845.

President Polk's authorization to affix Great Seal of the U.S. to Texas Statehood documents

President Polk’s Authorization to Affix the Great Seal to Texas Statehood documents – Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin

The text of Polk’s message:

I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to an authenticated copy of “an act to extend the laws of the United States over the State of Texas and for other purposes” approved Dec. 29, 1845 dated this day, and signed by me and for so doing this shall be his warrant.

James K. Polk
Washington, Dec. 29, 1845

Seal of the U.S. affixed to Texas Statehood Proclamation

Great Seal of the United States of America, affixed to the Texas Statehood Proclamation – image from State Archives Division, Texas State Library

Resources:

More:

The Texas Ranger Museum took note of the day (no, not the baseball Rangers):

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. It is an annual event, after all. And, fighting ignorance requires patience and persistence.

 


Iowans fly flags: Iowa Statehood, December 28, 1846

December 27, 2014

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.

“Millions of acres. Iowa and Nebraska. Land for sale on 10 years credit by the Burlington & Missouri River R. R. Co. at 6 per ct interest and low prices.” Poster advertising land in Iowa, circa 1872, from the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Co. – Library of Congress Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 134, Folder 13; via Wikipedia

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

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Is December the flag-flyingest month?

December 16, 2014

November offers several flag flying days, especially in years when there is an election.

But December may be the month with the most flag-flying dates, if we include statehood days.

December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  It’s not in the Flag Code, but it is in a public law (P.L. 103-308) that the president should issue a proclamation asking Americans to fly flags.

December 25 is Christmas Day, a federal holiday, and one of the score of dates designated in the Flag Code.

Other dates?

Several states attained statehood in December, so people in those states should fly their flags (and you may join them):

  • Illinois, December 3 (1818, 21st state)
  • Delaware, December 7 (1787, 1st state)
  • Mississippi, December 10 (1817, 20th state)
  • Indiana, December 11 (1816, 19th state)
  • Pennsylvania, December 12 (1787, 2nd state)
  • Alabama, December 14 (1819, 22nd state)
  • New Jersey, December 18 (1787, 3rd state)
  • Iowa, December 28 (1846, 29th state)
  • Texas, December 29 (1845, 28th state)

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, marking the day in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was declared ratified; but though this event generally gets a presidential proclamation, there is no law or executive action that requires flags to fly on that date, for that occasion.

Eleven flag-flying dates in December.  Does any other month have as many flag flying opportunities?

Have I missed any December flag-flying dates?

Flags at the Washington Monument, looking down the Capital Mall towards the U.S. Capitol.

Flags at the Washington Monument, looking down the Capital Mall towards the U.S. Capitol.


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