Fly your flag today, July 4, 2015

July 4, 2015

Follow the example of the young Gerald Ford.

1929: #President Gerald R Ford Jr holding flag with Eagle Scout Guard of Honor Mackinac Island State Park #Michigan. Tweet from America's Gallery

1929: #President Gerald R. Ford, Jr. holding flag with Eagle Scout Guard of Honor, Mackinac Island State Park, #Michigan. Tweet from America’s Gallery

Flags up in the morning, down at sunset.

Have a good, safe and joyful Fourth of July.


June 25: Virginians fly flags to commemorate statehood, and Col. Van T. Barfoot

June 24, 2015

June 25 is Virginia Statehood Day.  The U.S. Flag Code urges Americans to fly the U.S. flag on the statehood date of their states.

Virginia is counted as the 10th state, by virtue of the Virginia ratifying convention’s having voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution on June 25, 1788 — over the strong objections of Gov. Patrick Henry, and with the skilled legislative work of James Madison.

The Constitution became effective upon the ninth state’s ratification, but Virginia, being the largest state in the union at the time, was considered a make-or-break vote.

June 25 is the last U.S. flag flying date in June 2015.

So, Virginians: Fly your U.S. flags on June 25, as Col. Van T. Barfoot did every day until his death.

From the Washington Post: Retired Col. Van T. Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his daughter Margaret Nicholls lower the flag outside Barfoot's home in the Sussex Square subdivision in Henrico County, Va., in 2009. Barfoot died March 2 [2012] at a hospital in Richmond. He was 92. (Photo by Eva Russo/AP)

From the Washington Post: “Retired Col. Van T. Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his daughter Margaret Nicholls lower the flag outside Barfoot’s home in the Sussex Square subdivision in Henrico County, Va., in 2009. Barfoot died March 2 [2012] at a hospital in Richmond. He was 92. (Photo by Eva Russo/AP)”

You may remember the story of Col. Barfoot. As a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, he flew Old Glory every day. In 2009 his Henrico County, Virginia homeowners association complained, ordered him to stop flying the U.S. flag and take down his flag pole, erected in violation of HOA “curb appeal” rules.

Col. Barfoot refused.  Eventually the public outcry, including pressure from President Barack Obama, got the HOA to back down.  Obama said Barfoot was a good example, and had earned the right to fly Old Glory.

Barfoot had a particularly compelling case to fly the flag. Barfoot was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in Italy, against German troops, in 1944.  The Washington Post explained: 

Early in the war, he participated in the Army’s invasion of Italy. As his unit moved inland, the soldiers took up defensive positions near Carano.

On May 23, 1944, Col. Barfoot was ordered to lead an assault on German positions. He went out alone and crawled to within feet of a German bunker.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, he tossed a grenade inside, killing two Germans and wounding three others. He then moved to another bunker nearby and killed two more German soldiers with his submachine gun while taking three others prisoner. A third machine gun crew, watching Col. Barfoot’s methodical assault, surrendered to him. In all, 17 Germans gave themselves up to Col. Barfoot.

In retaliation, the Germans organized a counterattack on Col. Barfoot’s position, sending three tanks toward him.

Col. Barfoot grabbed a bazooka grenade launcher and stood 75 yards in front of the leading tank. His first shot stopped it in its tracks. He then killed three of the German tank crew members who had attempted to escape.

The other two tanks, witnessing the destruction, abruptly changed directions, moving away from Col. Barfoot. Returning to his platoon, he helped carry two wounded U.S. soldiers almost a mile to safety.

Commending his “Herculean efforts,” Col. Barfoot’s citation praised his “magnificent valor and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire.”

Col. Barfoot served in the Korean War and later in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. His other military decorations included the Silver Star; two awards of the Legion of Merit; the Bronze Star; three awards of the Purple Heart; and 11 awards of the Air Medal.

So, Virginians, would it inconvenience you much to fly your U.S. flags today — in honor of Col. Van T. Barfoot, as well as in honor of your state’s entry into the Union?

What do we do to deserve the loyalty and service of such men?


June 15: Should we fly the flag for Arkansas statehood?

June 15, 2015

Arkansas statehood day is June 15 — Arkansas became the 25th state in 1836. Arkansas residents fly their U.S. flags today in commemoration of the event, the 179th anniversary.

U.S. and Arkansas flags fly at the State Capitol; image from the Arkansas Secretary of State.

U.S. and Arkansas flags fly at the State Capitol; image from the Arkansas Secretary of State.

But I see in news reports stories about how the actual law passed a couple of days earlier, though news didn’t get to Arkansas until about July 4.  Is June 15 the real Arkansas statehood day?

What say you, Arkansas historians? Can you explain it?

We’re flying our flags anyway, for National Flag Week, which is celebrated the week in which Flag Day occurs, June 14.

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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.


June 1: Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee for Statehood Day

June 1, 2015

Our laws on flag flying encourage citizens to fly U.S. flags on specific dates, and on the date of statehood of the state in which a citizen lives.

Kentucky joined the union on June 1, 1792, the 15th state.  Tennessee joined four years later, on June 1, 1796, becoming the 16th state.

Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee — or wherever Kentuckians or Tennesseeans may be — in honor of statehood.

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff.  Photo by J. Stephen Conn

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

Kentucky's state flag, by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s state flag features a Native American and European colonist standing together, and the state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” Photo by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s admission to the union pushed the U.S. flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes.   President George Washington signed the law that authorized the U.S. flag be expanded to 15 stripes in early 1794.  I’ve not pinned down the history of what happened next.  So far as I know there was no law expanding the flag to 16 stripes, and in 1818, Congress said the flag would be 13 stripes, and stars equal to the number of states.

A 15-striped Star-spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that is now the lyric to our national anthem.  President James Monroe signed the 13-stripe law in 1818.

What happened in between?  I suspect there are a lot of 15-stripe flags, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a 16-stripe flag somewhere.  A variety of stars-and-stripes flags cropped up, which the 1818 law was intended to squelch.

Residents of the Bluegrass State and the Volunteer State should fly their flags today, in honor of their state’s having joined the union on June 1.

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

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


On what dates should we fly the flag in June?

May 31, 2015

Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia, by tradition the birthplace of Old Glory.

Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia, about 1900, by tradition the birthplace of Old Glory. “Happy Flag Day from Shorpy! Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative.” Image via Shorpy. Betsy Ross House is a traditional site for Philadelphia’s celebration of Flag Day.

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)

Arkansas, Kentucky celebrate statehood; South Carolina and Wisconsin share May 23:

  • Kentucky, June 1 (1792, 15th state)
  • Tennessee, June 1 (1796, 16th state)
  • Arksansas, 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 2015 that would the week of June 14, which falls on Sunday, through June 20.

Nine designations covering 10 separate days, listed chronologically:

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

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


May 29, Rhode Island Statehood Day; fly your flags in Providence

May 29, 2015

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0d/Independent_Man_Providence_Capitol.JPG/800px-Independent_Man_Providence_Capitol.JPG

The Independent Man stands atop the Rhode Island State House in Providence. Photo by Lgalbi; Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

May 29 is statehood day for Rhode Island, the 13th of the original colonies to join the union.

It’s interesting history to me. Rhode Island was rogue enough at the time — many called it “Rogues’ Island” — the colony sent no delegates to the convention in Philadelphia that wrote the Constitution.  One may wonder why the delegates even bothered to include the colony in the process. But, they did.

Not that it mattered to creation of the United States.  New Hampshire was the 9th state to ratify the document, on June 21, 1788, making it effective under the rules.  Rhode Island did not ratify the Constitution until May 29, 1790 — two years after the Constitution took effect, and about a year after the new government started operation and inaugurated George Washington the first president.  Rhode Island joined the nation already steaming along.

Rear of Rhode Island's Capitol, flying the Rhode Island state flag to the left, and the U.S. and POW flags on the right.  (Just try to find photos of the U.S. and Rhode Island flags together . . . please.)

Rhode Island State Capitol, north facade, by Garrett A. Wollman; bostonradio.org via Wikimedia. Rhode Island’s state flag flies to the left, and the U.S. and POW flags on the right. (Just try to find photos of the U.S. and Rhode Island flags together . . . please.)

Does Rhode Island celebrate Statehood Day? I don’t know. Historian Laureate Patrick T. Conley wrote a column for the Providence Journal revealing that Rhode Island was, like Texas, an independent republic for a time. This news won’t rest well with Texans. Other Rhode Island celebrations may occur, but they’re tough to learn about.

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