It is said that the flag of the United States was designed by Betsy Ross, a seamstress who lived in Philadelphia during the American Revolution. But, according to PBS, “some historians believe it was designed by New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson and sewn by Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross.”
Whether it was Betsy Ross or Congressman Hopkins who designed the original Stars and Stripes, the Continental Congress, on June 14, 1777, adopted a resolution declaring that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white…the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” And so, it came to be that our Grand Old Flag became the official emblem of the U.S.– based on the Continental Army’s banner. It was carried into battle for the first time September 11, 1777 in the Revolutionary War battle of Brandywine.
“Here’s another, somewhat obscure, piece of the Flag’s history,” says Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]. “The first observance of June 14th, Flag Day was organized in 1885 by a 19-year-old schoolteacher from Waubeka, Wisconsin, Bernard J. Cigrand. It was not an official celebration, but it was the first known ceremony in honor of our nation’s ensign, according to Cigrand’s biographer historian James L. Brown in his book, The Real Bernard J. Cigrand: The Father of Flag Day.”
Cigrand was passionate about our Flag. He is said to have delivered more than 2,000 speeches during his quest for an official, national day for the observance of Flag Day. It took him three decades of effort and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 for the observance. Likewise, President Calvin Coolidge issued his own proclamation in 1927. However, it would take Congress another 33 years to declare it a national day of remembrance, not quite a national holiday, which President Harry Truman signed into law on August 3, 1949.
“Today, more than ever, it is important for patriotic Americans to show appropriate reverence for the Flag. We live in an era of unheard of, unexpected disdain for the American way of life — particularly among the younger generations. There are those who would see our Democracy replaced by socialism — even communism among those who do not know of what they speak. Thus, it is important to show them the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ and the reasons we take the time to reflect on and respect Old Glory on June 14,” AMAC’s Weber noted.
What better place to learn the dos and don’ts of the American Flag than at the American Legion Website. Here are a few interesting observations:
The Flag Code is The American Legion Flag Code. On Flag Day, June 14, 1923, The American Legion and representatives of 68 other patriotic, fraternal, civic and military organizations met in Washington, DC for the purpose of drafting a code of flag etiquette. The 77th Congress adopted this codification of rules as public law on June 22, 1942. It is Title 4, United States Code Chapter 1.
A flag that has been used to cover a casket cannot be used for any other proper display purpose. [Not so] A flag that has been used to cover a casket can be used for any proper display purpose to include displaying this flag from a staff or flagpole. You must destroy the flag when it touches the ground. [Not so] As long as the flag remains suitable for display, the flag may continue to be displayed as a symbol of our great country.
There has been a change to the Flag Code that no longer requires the flag to be properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. [Not so] There has been NO CHANGE to Flag Code section 6(a), which states: “It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”
The Flag Code states that when the flag is no longer a fitting emblem for display it is to be disposed of by burning in private. [Not so] The Flag Code as revised and adopted by the Congress of the United States in 1942 has never included the word(s) “private” or “in privacy.” Section 8(k) of the Flag Code states: “The flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Since 1937, The American Legion has promoted the use of a public flag disposal ceremony. This ceremony is a fitting tribute and an overt expression of patriotism, which enhances the public’s understanding of honor and respect due the American flag.