Celebrating Flag Day

June 14, 2017

NASA History office (@NASAHistory) Tweeted this out: Happy #FlagDay! Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott salutes the American flag at the Hadley-Apennine landing site on the Moon, 1971.

You’ve got your flag flying for Flag Day, right?

Flag Day is one of the least holiday-ish commemorative days on the U.S. calendar.  I doubt anyone gets the day off. There are a few scheduled events, maybe a flag-raising, or a fly over.

Most of us go to work, we note a few more flags flying. That’s it.

Some newspapers and other news outlets take the opportunity to tell us flag history, or flag etiquette. Mostly Flag Day is a day for people say hurray for the flag!

That’s not bad.

What are other people doing and saying (beyond the other tragedies of the day)?

One of my favorite pictures from Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. The flag is on a temporary pole — the view from the cupola is fantastic, but few ever get to see it.

How do you provide real, courtroom-worthy evidence that the Moon landings by Apollo really happened, that they were not hoaxes? You show the prints on the Moon. You show the flag that is still there:

Oh, that NASA History post:

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Flag Day 2017 – Fly your flag June 14!

June 14, 2017

Flag Day cartoon by Clifford Berryman (Washington Post?); June 14, 1918

Flag Day cartoon by Clifford Berryman (Washington Post?); June 14, 1918

Our traditional Flag Day post.

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

You may fly your flag the entire week, Sunday through Saturday, designated Flag Week by law. But please remember to get the flag out on June 14 at least.

Flag Day 2014 celebrates the U.S. flag, now over 200 years since 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.  But 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.

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 57 years ago. (U.S. history students: Have ever heard of an essay, “Manifest destiny fulfilled?”)

150 employees of the National Geographic Society marched in that parade in 1916, 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.

More, and Other Voices:

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On what dates should we fly the flag in June 2017?

June 5, 2017

Flags at Post Office building, Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. on Flag Day, 1913. Now commonly referred to as the Old Post Office Building, this is the lobby of the Trump Hotel, 104 years later. Library of Congress image, from the National Photo Company Collection.

Flags at Post Office building, Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. on Flag Day, 1913. Now commonly referred to as the Old Post Office Building, this is the lobby of the Trump Hotel, 104 years later. 1913 was long before the U.S. Flag Code went into law; how many Library of Congress image, from the National Photo Company Collection.

June holds only two days designated for flying the U.S. flag out of the specific days mentioned in the U.S. Flag Code, and six statehood days, when residents of those states should fly their flags.  Plus, there is National Flag Week.

Two Flag Code-designated days:

  • Flag Day, June 14
  • Fathers Day, third Sunday in June (June 18 in 2017)

Several states celebrate statehood. New Hampshire, Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia celebrate statehood; Kentucky and Tennessee share the same date.

  • Kentucky, June 1 (1792, 15th state)
  • Tennessee, June 1 (1796, 16th state)
  • Arkansas, June 15 (1836, 25th state)
  • West Virginia, June 20 (1863, 35th state)
  • New Hampshire, June 21 (1788, 9th state), and
  • Virginia, June 25 (1788, 10th state)

Additionally, Congress passed a resolution designating the week in which June 14th falls as National Flag Week, and urging that citizens fly the flag each day of that week.  In 2016 that would the week of June 12, which falls on Sunday, through June 18.

Flag-flying days for June, listed chronologically:

  1. Kentucky and Tennessee statehood, June 1
  2. Flag Day, June 14; National Flag week, June 11 to 17
  3. Arkansas statehood, June 15 (duplicating a day in National Flag Week)
  4. Fathers Day, June 18
  5. West Virginia statehood, June 20
  6. New Hampshire statehood, June 21
  7. Virginia statehood, June 25

Any resident may fly the flag any day of the year, under the etiquette provided in the Flag Code.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mike’s Blog Rounds at Crooks and Liars — thanks for the plug!

National Archives caption: This illustration entitled, “Flag Day - 1900”, by cartoonist Clifford Berryman, which appeared in the Washington Post on June 14, 1900, depicts the growth of American influence in the world as the European powers watch in the background as new century is ushered in.

National Archives caption: This illustration entitled, “Flag Day – 1900”, by cartoonist Clifford Berryman, which appeared in the Washington Post on June 14, 1900, depicts the growth of American influence in the world as the European powers watch in the background as new century is ushered in.

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On what dates should we fly the flag in June?

June 14, 2016

Oswego, New York. Air cadets marching in front of the boy scouts carrying United Nations flags on Flag Day 1943 during United Nations week. Photo by Marjory Collins, Library of Congress image

Oswego, New York. Air cadets marching in front of the boy scouts carrying United Nations flags on Flag Day 1943 (June 14) during United Nations week. Photo by Marjory Collins, Library of Congress image

June holds only two days designated for flying the U.S. flag out of the specific days mentioned in the U.S. Flag Code, and six statehood days, when residents of those states should fly their flags.  Plus, there is National Flag Week.

Two Flag Code-designated days:

  • Flag Day, June 14
  • Fathers Day, third Sunday in June (June 21)

Several states celebrate statehood. New Hampshire, Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia celebrate statehood; Kentucky and Tennessee share the same date.

  • Kentucky, June 1 (1792, 15th state)
  • Tennessee, June 1 (1796, 16th state)
  • Arkansas, June 15 (1836, 25th state)
  • West Virginia, June 20 (1863, 35th state)
  • New Hampshire, June 21 (1788, 9th state), and
  • Virginia, June 25 (1788, 10th state)

Additionally, Congress passed a resolution designating the week in which June 14th falls as National Flag Week, and urging that citizens fly the flag each day of that week.  In 2016 that would the week of June 12, which falls on Sunday, through June 18.

Flag-flying days for June, listed chronologically:

  1. Kentucky and Tennessee statehood, June 1
  2. Flag Day, June 14; National Flag week, June 12 to 18
  3. Arkansas statehood, June 15 (duplicating National Flag Week)
  4. Fathers Day, June 19
  5. West Virginia statehood, June 20
  6. New Hampshire statehood, June 21
  7. Virginia statehood, June 25

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mike’s Blog Rounds at Crooks and Liars — thanks for the plug!


Flag Day 2016 – Fly your flag June 14! Oh, and sing!

June 14, 2016

Our traditional Flag Day post.

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

Flag Day 2014 celebrates the U.S. flag, now over 200 years since 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.  But 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, 100 years ago today. 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 57 years ago. (U.S. history students: Have ever heard of an essay, “Manifest destiny fulfilled?”)

150 employees of the National Geographic Society marched in that parade in 1916, 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.

More, and Other Voices:


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.


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.


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