Thanksgiving 2015 – Fly your flag today!

November 26, 2015

Mt. Timpanogos and the U.S. flag. Photo by Bob Walker of Orem, Utah; from Orem, circa September 2012. That's Mt. Baldy on the left. This site is about six miles from our old home in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Mt. Timpanogos and the U.S. flag. Photo by Bob Walker of Orem, Utah; from Orem, circa September 2012. That’s Mt. Baldy on the left. This site is about six miles from our old home in Pleasant Grove, Utah, where we celebrated a few dozen Thanksgivings.

Fly  your flag on Thanksgiving — it’s one of those dates Congress designated specially to fly the flag, in the U.S. flag code.

Americans load up this particular holiday with significance, often for no particular reason.  As a holiday, it is really rather uniquely American.  There were feasts of thanksgiving from time to time throughout recorded history, but most often they were one-shot affairs, after a particular event. Some of the first thanksgivings in America, by Europeans, predated the New England celebrations by a century or more (nachos and margaritas at Palo Duro!).

In America, Americans eagerly seized on the idea of one day set aside “to give thanks,” both with the religious overtones some wanted to see, and with the commercial overtones others wanted, especially during the Great Depression.  In our 239th year since the Declaration of Independence, the 226th year since the Constitution was enacted, we come to Thanksgiving as a major period of travel to old family homesteads, to Thanksgiving as a period of genuine thanks to American troops fighting in foreign lands half a world away, and as a commercial celebration that sucks the sobriety and spirituality out of all but the most dedicated of profiteers, or bargain hunters.

Vintage Thanksgiving greeting card, from HubPages

In the early 20th century, some people sent greeting cards for Thanksgiving; this is a tradition overtaken by Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years cards, today. (Image from HubPages, unknown year — credit for cards, “Images courtesy

Thanksgiving often stumbled into controversy.  George Washington issued proclamations calling for a day of thanks, but struck out all references to Christianity.  Some president’s issued similar proclamations up to the Civil War, When Abraham Lincoln used the holiday as a time to remind  Americans that they had a lot to be thankful for, partly as a means to keep Americans focused on the war to be won, and keep supporting troops in the field.  During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt juggled dates for Thanksgiving, moving it earlier in November to create a longer Christmas shopping season, hoping to stimulate sales, and thereby push America further out of the Depression.

In 2001 George W. Bush urged Americans to go shopping so terrorists would know America was not defeated by the attack on the World Trade Center, knowing that a stimulus to the economy would help garner support for other policies.

Vintage thanksgiving card, Boy riding turkey with American flag, from HubPages, original date unknown

Children riding large turkeys, waving American flags, made popular images in several years of the early 20th century.

2012 saw controversy over Big Box stores and other major, national retailers pushing their post- Thanksgiving, Christmas sales, into Thanksgiving day itself.  Is this fair to employees?  Is this too much emphasis on purchasing, and too little emphasis on family and giving thanks?

In 2014, we had the same arguments about Big Box stores pushing “Black Friday” into the holiday, and even more arguments about Christmas creep reducing the importance of Thanksgiving to Americans. In 2015, REI announced their stores would be closed on Black Friday, and urged Americans to go outdoors for recreation. “Ditch the malls and head for the hills,” Time Magazine said.  REI is on to somehitng.

You can be sure of one thing:  It’s safe to fly your American flag on Thanksgiving, as Congress suggested.  It won’t make your turkey more moist  or your pumpkin pie taste any better.  It won’t boost your sales, if you’re a retailer, nor find you a bargain, if you’re a shopper.

If you have the flag, it costs nothing.  Flying the flag makes no particular religious statement, supports no particular political party, supports no one’s favorite football team.  Flying the flag earns you nothing, usually.

But as a free act of patriotism, support for our nation, and our troops, and a demonstration that even after a divisive election, we’re all one nation, it’s a pretty good deal.

Fly your flag today.


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

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

Fly your flag today: Columbus Day, 2015

October 11, 2015

A color guard will lead off most Columbus Day parades, as this one in New York City, in 2013. image

Feel free to put your political brickbats in comments.

U.S., Texas and University of North Texas at Dallas flags flying on campus, with storm clouds to the South. Photo by Ed Darrell; use encouraged with attribution.

U.S., Texas and University of North Texas at Dallas flags flying on campus, with storm clouds to the South. Photo by Ed Darrell; use encouraged with attribution.

October 12 is the traditional, old calendar date upon which Columbus’s journals show he “discovered” land west of the Atlantic, after sailing from Spain. (Surely there is an explanation for why the date was not altered to conform with the new calendar, but I digress.)  In the finite wisdom of Congress, the holiday is designated on the “second Monday of October,” in order to promote three-day weekends and avoid holidays in the middle of the week.

Happily for traditionalists, the second Monday of October 2015 falls on October 12.

The U.S. Flag Code urges Americans to fly their U.S. flags in honor of certain days.  Columbus Day is a traditional (since the 19th century) holiday (especially for descendants of Italian immigrants), and one of the score of dates denoted in the Flag Code.

Fly your flag today.

At some parades on Columbus Day the Italian colors outnumber the U.S. colors. New York Daily News photo.

At some parades on Columbus Day the Italian colors outnumber the U.S. colors. New York Daily News photo.


Or, if you’re in South Dakota, fly your flag for Native American Day.


Remember to fly your flag for Labor Day 2015, September 7

September 7, 2015

Still important in 2015: Fly your flag for American labor, Monday.

Free Labor Will Win, poster from 1942, (Library of Congress)

Poster from the Office of War Information, 1942

(Okay, you may fly your flag all weekend — especially if you’re a union member.  We get the whole weekend, but Labor Day itself is Monday.)

Labor Day 2015 in the United States is a federal holiday, and one of those days Americans are urged to fly the U.S. flag.

“Free Labor Will Win,” the poster said, encouraging a theme important during World War II, when unions were encouraged to avoid strikes or any action that might interrupt work to build the “arsenal of democracy” believed necessary to win the war.  Labor complied, the war was won, and organized labor was the stronger for it. In 2015, some have difficulty remembering when all Americans knew that our future rides on the backs of organized labor.

In war, America turned to organized labor to get the jobs done. Not only do we owe a debt to labor that deserves remembering, we have many jobs that need to be done now, for which organized labor is the best group to turn to.

The poster was issued by the Office of War Information in 1942, in full color. A black-and-white version at the Library of Congress provides a few details for the time:

Labor Day poster. Labor Day poster distributed to war plants and labor organizations. The original is twenty-eight and one-half inches by forty inches and is printed in full color. It was designed by the Office of War Information (OWI) from a photograph especially arranged by Anton Bruehl, well-known photographer. Copies may be obtained by writing the Distribution Section, Office of War Information [alas, you can’t get a copy from the Office of War Information in 2012]

Even down here in deepest, darkest-right-to-work Texas, patriots fly their flags to honor Labor today. It’s heartening.

Flags fly all around in 1882 at the first Labor Day Parade in New York City’s Union Square; lithograph from USC’s Dornsife History Center, via Wikipedia, artist unidentified

This is partly an encore post, a Labor Day tradition.

More, Other Resources:

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post, a Labor Day tradition.

Memorial Day 2015 – Fly your flag today

May 25, 2015

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

Fly your flag today for Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day, flags should be flown at half-staff until noon, then raised to full staff (and retired at sunset).

Just a reminder: When posting a flag to half-staff, it should be raised with gusto to full staff, then slowly lowered to the half-staff position.  On Memorial Day, when changing the flag’s position at noon, simply raise the flag briskly to full staff.  At retirement, the flag should be lowered in a stately fashion.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015.  You may use this photo.

U.S. flags flying at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, for Memorial Day 2015. You may use this photo.

Armed Forces Day 2015, May 16 – Fly your flag

May 15, 2015

Armed Forces Day poster for 2015

Armed Forces Day poster for 2015. Click on image to download high-quality, poster-quality files to print

Armed Forces Day is the third Saturday in May. This year it falls on May 16.

The U.S. Flag Code designates Armed Forces Day as one day for all Americans to fly their flags, in honor of those men and women presently serving in any of the Armed Forces.

Activities to honor active duty and active reserve forces occur in hundreds of communities across the nation.  Check your local papers.

And remember to fly your flag.

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?) (Update: Yep! From Wikimedia: Left to right, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, President Truman, Adm. William Leahy.

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.]


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

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

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

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? 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.

God blessed February 12, 1809, with Darwin and Lincoln

February 12, 2015

Is it an unprecedented coincidence?  206 years ago today, just minutes (probably hours) apart according to unconfirmed accounts, Abraham Lincoln was born in a rude log cabin on Nolin Creek, in Kentucky, and Charles Darwin was born into a wealthy family at the family home  in Shrewsbury, England.

Gutzon Borglums 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol - AOC photo

Gutzon Borglum’s 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol – Architect of the Capitol photo

Lincoln would become one of our most endeared presidents, though endearment would come after his assassination.  Lincoln’s bust rides the crest of Mt. Rushmore (next to two slaveholders), with George Washington, the Father of His Country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt, the man who made the modern presidency, and the only man ever to have won both a Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Prize, the only president to have won the Medal of Honor.  In his effort to keep the Union together, Lincoln freed the slaves of the states in rebellion during the civil war, becoming an icon to freedom and human rights for all history.  Upon his death the entire nation mourned; his funeral procession from Washington, D.C., to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois, stopped twelve times along the way for full funeral services.  Lying in state in the Illinois House of Representatives, beneath a two-times lifesize portrait of George Washington, a banner proclaimed, “Washington the Father, Lincoln the Savior.”

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London - NHM photo

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London – NHM photo

Darwin would become one of the greatest scientists of all time.  He would be credited with discovering the theory of evolution by natural and sexual selection.  His meticulous footnoting and careful observations formed the data for ground-breaking papers in geology (the creation of coral atolls), zoology (barnacles, and the expression of emotions in animals and man), botany (climbing vines and insectivorous plants), ecology (worms and leaf mould), and travel (the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle).  At his death he was honored with a state funeral, attended by the great scientists and statesmen of London in his day.  Hymns were specially written for the occasion.  Darwin is interred in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton, England’s other great scientist, who knocked God out of the heavens.

Lincoln would be known as the man who saved the Union of the United States and set the standard for civil and human rights, vindicating the religious beliefs of many and challenging the beliefs of many more.  Darwin’s theory would become one of the greatest ideas of western civilization, changing forever all the sciences, and especially agriculture, animal husbandry, and the rest of biology, while also provoking crises in religious sects.

Lincoln, the politician known for freeing the slaves, also was the first U.S. president to formally consult with scientists, calling on the National Science Foundation (whose creation he oversaw) to advise his administration.  Darwin, the scientist, advocated that his family put the weight of its fortune behind the effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire.  Each held an interest in the other’s disciplines.

Both men were catapulted to fame in 1858. Lincoln’s notoriety came from a series of debates on the nation’s dealing with slavery, in his losing campaign against Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate.  On the fame of that campaign, he won the nomination to the presidency of the fledgling Republican Party in 1860.  Darwin was spurred to publicly reveal his ideas about the power of natural and sexual selection as the force behind evolution, in a paper co-authored by Alfred Russel Wallace, presented to the Linnean Society in London on July 1, 1858.   On the strength of that paper, barely noticed at the time, Darwin published his most famous work, On the Origin of Species, in November 1859.

The two men might have got along well, but they never met.

What unusual coincidences.

Go celebrate human rights, good science, and the stories about these men.

A school kid could do much worse than to study the history of these two great men.  We study them far too little, it seems to me.


Charles Darwin:

Abraham Lincoln:


Anybody know what hour of the day either of these men was born?

Yes, you may fly your flag today for Lincoln’s birthday, according to the Flag Code; the official holiday, Washington’s Birthday, is next Monday, February 16th — and yes, it’s usually called “President’s Day” by merchants and calendar makers. You want to fly your flag for Charles Darwin? Darwin never set foot in North America, remained a loyal subject of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to the end of his days. But go ahead. Who would know?

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

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


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