When should you fly your U.S. flag in August?

July 30, 2015

National anthem at opening day 2011 at the Ballpark in Arlington, where the Texas Rangers play.  Many Americans salute the flag several times during August at U.S. major league ballparks. Photo: Texas Rangers/Examiner/Ben Werz. (How many displays in contravention of the U.S. Flag Code can you spot?)

National anthem at opening day 2011 at the Ballpark in Arlington, where the Texas Rangers play. Many Americans salute the flag several times during August at U.S. major league ballparks. Photo: Texas Rangers/Examiner/Ben Werz. (How many displays in contravention of the U.S. Flag Code can you spot?)

August in the U.S. is a lazy, often hot, summer month.  It’s a month for vacation, picnicking, local baseball games, camping, cookouts and beach vacations.  It’s not a big month for events to fly the U.S. flag.

Only one event calls for nation-wide flag-flying in August, National Aviation Day on August 19.  This event is not specified in the Flag Code, but in a separate provision in the same chapter U.S. Code.  Three states celebrate statehood, Colorado, Hawaii and Missouri.

Put these dates on your calendar to fly the flag in August:

  • August 1, Colorado statehood (1876, 38th state)
  • August 10, Missouri statehood (1821, 24th state)
  • August 19, National Aviation Day, 36 USC 1 § 118
  • August 21, Hawaii statehood (1959, 50th state)

The American Flag, as it is known today, flies over Fort Stanwix National Monument. It is flown following the U.S. flag code regulations. At all times of the year it is a quite a site to see.  National Park Service VIP Mike Hucko

US flag at site of a bitter siege in August, 1777; National Parks Service Caption: The American Flag, as it is known today, flies over [Fort Stanwix] National Monument. It is flown following the U.S. flag code regulations. At all times of the year it is a quite a site to see. National Park Service VIP Mike Hucko

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Flag Day 2015! Fly your flag all week

June 14, 2015

Of course you know to fly your flag on June 14 for Flag Day — but did you know that the week containing Flag Day is Flag Week, and we are encouraged to fly the flag every day?

Clifford Berryman's 1901 Flag Day cartoon, found at the National Archives:

Clifford Berryman’s 1901 Flag Day cartoon, found at the National Archives: “In this June 14, 1904, cartoon, Uncle Sam gives a lesson to schoolchildren on the meaning of Flag Day. Holding the American flag in one hand, Uncle Sam explains that the flag has great importance, unlike the Vice Presidency, which he ridicules in a kindly manner. (National Archives Identifier 6010464)”

Our National Archives has a blogged history of Flag Day pointing out it was a teacher who started Flag Day celebrations.

On June 14, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk at the Stony Hill School in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. The 19-year-old teacher then asked his students to write essays on the flag and its significance to them. This small observance marked the beginning of a long and devoted campaign by Cigrand to bring about national recognition for Flag Day.

And so we do, today, still.


70 years ago today, U.S. flags rose on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima

February 23, 2015

February 23, 1945. It’s a date that will live in famous heroics, war brutality, photography, and bronze.

On the morning of February 23, U.S. troops raised the U.S. flag on a hill known as Mt. Suribachi, on the island of Iwo Jima — a visual signal to U.S. troops that the high ground had been taken, and the battle turned for the U.S.

First flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945.  Photograph for Leatherneck Magazine by Sgt. Lou Lowery.

First flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945. Photograph for Leatherneck Magazine by Sgt. Lou Lowery.

Later in the day, an officer ordered a larger flag to be posted, to be more visible. AP photographer Joe Rosenthal caught that raising on film.

Is this the most iconic photo ever?  Wikimedia caption: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal's historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

Is this the most iconic photo ever? Wikimedia caption: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal’s historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

February 23 does not appear in the list of dates by law recommended for Americans to fly the U.S. flag.  You may want to fly yours today, anyway.

More:

Iwo Jima Memorial, near Washington, D.C.

Iwo Jima Memorial, near Washington, D.C.

Mt. Suribachi's prominence is clear in this photo of the island of Iwo To, as it is known in Japan.

Mt. Suribachi’s prominence is clear in this photo of the island of Iwo To, as it is known in Japan. Suribachi is a 546-foot (166 m) dormant volcanic cone, on the southern tip of the island. Wikipedia image


Dates to fly the U.S. flag in February

February 4, 2015

Photo #: 80-G-K-21225 (color)

Caption from the U.S. Navy, via Wikipedia: Photo #: 80-G-K-21225 (color) “First Recognition of the American Flag by a Foreign Government”, 14 February 1778 Painting in oils by Edward Moran, 1898. It depicts the Continental Navy Ship Ranger, commanded by Captain John Paul Jones, receiving the salute of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, France, 14 February 1778. Earlier in the month, after receipt of news of the victory at Saratoga, France recognized the independence of the American colonies and signed a treaty of alliance with them. The original painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. [A larger version is available for download at Wikipedia.]

You want to mark your calendar so you remember to put your U.S. flag up on those dates designated by law and tradition, right?

Which dates in February?

  • Massachusetts statehood, February 6 (6th state, 1788)
  • Lincoln’s birthday, February 12 (yes, it’s still designated in law as a date to fly the flag)
  • Oregon statehood, February 14 (33rd state, 1859)
  • Arizona statehood, February 14 (48th state, 1913)
  • Washington’s birthday, now designated President’s Day, the third Monday in February, February 16 in 2015

You may fly your flag on state holidays, too — which of those dates do we see in February?  Is there a good list?

Though we don’t mark it usually, February 14 is the anniversary of the first recognition of the Stars and Stripes by a foreign government, in 1778.  The French fleet recognized the ensign carried by Capt. John Paul Jones, at Quiberon Bay — painting of the event is at the top of this post.

February 23 is the anniversary of the raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima, in 1945 — 70 years ago.  We should probably watch for proclamations to fly the flag on that date, a decadal anniversary made more important simply because so few survivors of from among the veterans of that war and that fight can be expected to live to see the 80th anniversary.  Please visit earlier posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, on the death of Joe Rosenthal, the photographer who took the widely-released iconic photo; on the death of Charles Lindberg, pictured in the first flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi; on the death of Raymond Jacobs, the last-surviving veteran from the flag raisings; and on my visit to the Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima-themed U.S. Marine Memorial overlooking Washington, D.C.

A Youtube poster edited a part of the Army’s documentary, “To the Shores of Iwo Jima,” showing the flag raising on film, and added in some other images for a less-than-three-minute look.


Remember the day Utah flew the flag backwards, to honor the Union?

January 4, 2015

In 2013, Holly Munson at the Constitution Center wrote up a piece about Utah’s perhaps odd path to statehood, certainly complementary to my reminder that you could fly your flags on January 4, to honor Utah’s statehood, under the U.S. Flag Code.  Munson’s piece was distributed on Yahoo! News.

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

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.  Remembering history takes constant reminders.

Her report is very solid, even though brief, and interesting.  Utah history is nothing if not a convoluted path to statehood through what amounted to a civil war, the Mexican War, the discovery of gold in California, the transcontinental railroads, mining and immigration, Indian wars, old west shootouts, rampant environmental destruction with sheep grazing and mineral extraction and smelting, union strife, astonishing agricultural applications, and a lot of books written from tens of thousands of Mormon pioneer journals — Mormonism appears to be impossible without ink and paper and time to write.

Go read her story.

What caught my eye was the George W. Reed photograph of the Salt Lake City Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the LDS, or Mormon church.  The Temple and the Tabernacle, also in the photo, both have their own unique architectural histories, and quirks that make them noteworthy purely from architecture.  (This George W. Reed should not be confused with the Civil War Medal of Honor winner, George W. Reed)

Reed was an early photographer for newspapers in Salt Lake City, and he took some wonderful photos for posterity.  He was also a founder of the leading non-Mormon paper in the state, The Salt Lake Tribune.  At points in its history, it’s been known as an anti-Mormon paper.  The University of Utah’s library holds about five dozen of his photos in their collection, indexed electronically if not quite available yet; there Reed is described:

A pioneer in the development of Utah newspapers, George Reed was originally employed by the Deseret News and in 1871 helped in establishing the Salt Lake Tribune. His photographs include nineteenth century views of Salt Lake City, individuals at Reed’s Avenue home, Wasatch Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and a photograph of the American flag hung on the Salt Lake Temple in 1896 to commemorate Utah’s statehood.

In the collection of Utah State University, in Logan, Reed has yet more papers.  There we get a bit more of his history:

A pioneer in Utah journalism, George W. Reed was born in London, England, on April 7, 1833. He emigrated to Utah in 1862 and became manager of the Deseret News, a position he held until 1871 when he founded the Salt Lake Tribune. In 1882, after a decade at the Tribune, Reed sold his interest in the paper to P. H. Lannan. He married Elizabeth Tuddenham in 1866 and passed away December 1, 1909.

U.S. flag on the Mormon Temple, at Utah statehood in 1896

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, draped with a U.S. flag in 1896, commemorating the completion of Utah’s statehood campaign when President Grover Cleveland declared Utah a member of the Union. Photo by George W. Reed; Reed worked for the Deseret News, and helped found the Salt Lake Tribune. I do not know whether this photo was published in either paper.  From the George W. Reed Collection, University of Utah Libraries.

Yes, you’re right!  That flag is backwards.  Well, it’s backwards according to the modern U.S. Flag Code, which specifies that when hung from a building, the flag’s union should always be in the viewer’s upper left corner (“northwest” corner were it a standard map).  In the photograph, the union is in the opposite corner.  No, we know the photo is not reversed, because it accurately portrays the location of the Tabernacle, to the west and slightly south of the Temple.

(From what platform did Reed get that photo?  I’ll have to check to be sure it was there in 1896, but I’m thinking he shot from the Salt Lake County Building; it’s a distance, though.  A photographic historical mystery!)

But we hear the protests:  The U.S. Flag Code did not exist in 1896!  How can that be a violation of a code that did not exist?

That’s right, too.

That is an indication that the traditions of flag display that some people get riled up about, that many people think we should amend the Constitution to protect, are new inventions more than old traditions.  Flag code violations are legion by well-meaning citizens celebrating the flag and patriotism, and rare by anyone with any malignant motives.

After a 49-year fight for statehood, through wars with the U.S., fighting with the U.S. forces in Mexico, the administrations of several presidents and 25 different U.S. Congresses, and pledges to change the rules of the church to ban polygamy and put that ban in the state constitution,  the people of Utah, especially the Mormon officials, were not trying to insult America by displaying the flag incorrectly.  Somebody said ‘fly the flag from the Temple,’ and some engineer or custodian got it done.  By 1896, most of the First Amendment litigation done in the U.S. had involved whether Mormons could keep their marriage policies (Mormons lost).  There was no intent to violate any rule of separation of church and state — nor would that be considered a violation today.  Churches may fly the nation’s flag with all the approval that suggests; it’s the government which may not fly a church’s flag.

Finally, there is no grand story in the flag’s being flown backwards.  It’s just one of those historical footnotes that mark the changing mores of the times, in this case, for standards of how to fly the U.S. flag.

Perhaps Utah history textbooks should make note of the day the U.S. flag was flown, backwards, to honor statehood.

More, and related resources:


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).

September 9, California Statehood Day; Golden Staters, fly your flags!

September 8, 2014

U.S. Flag Code guidelines list specific days Americans should fly U.S. flags, and generically, urges people in states to fly flags on their state’s day of achieving statehood.

It’s fun to read through the list of statehood dates and ponder just how such a date is calculated (consider the first 13 colonies and their becoming states); but however it was calculated, September 9 is California’s day.

U.S. and California flags flying from the same flagpole.

U.S. and California flags flying from the same flagpole.

Fly your flags, California.

3-cent stamp honoring California's statehood centennial, in 1950.  Image from Rockhounds.com

3-cent stamp honoring California’s statehood centennial, in 1950. Image from Rockhounds.com

California was the 31st state admitted; 31-star flags were in use until Minnesota’s statehood in 1858.  Here’s a unique design on the 31-star motif:

31-start flag with stars arranged in

31-star flag with stars arranged in “Great Star” constellation suggested by War of 1812 Navy hero Samuel Reid, a wearer of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Reid urged 13 stripes instead of 15, which Congress accepted; but he also urged the Great Star design, which was not accepted. Placement of stars in the field remained unencumbered by rules until the Eisenhower administration. Photo from Jeff R. Bridgman Antiques.


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