“And let us not forget that in honoring our flag, we honor the American men and women who have courageously fought and died for it,” President Ronald Reagan.
Sunday, June 14, 2020 is the observance of Flag Day. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1916, and President Calvin Coolidge, in 1927, issued proclamations asking for June 14 to be observed as the National Flag Day. But it wasn’t until August 3, 1949, that Congress approved the national observance, and President Harry Truman signed it into law.
Just where did the idea of the flag belonging to the United States of America hail from? A resolution adopted by the Continental Congress June 14, 1777 stated, “That the flag of the United States shall be of thirteen stripes of alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white in a blue field, representing the new constellation. The resolution was made following the report of a special committee, which had been assigned to suggest the flag’s design.
A flag of this design was first carried into battle September 11, 1777, in the Battle of the Brandywine. The American flag was first saluted by foreign naval vessels February 14, 1778, when the Ranger, bearing the Stars and Stripes and under the command of Captain Paul Jones, arrived in a French port. The flag first flew over a foreign territory in early 1778 at Nassau, Bahama Islands, where Americans captured a British fort.
Observance of the adoption of the flag was not soon in coming, however. Although there are many claims to the first official observance of Flag Day, all but one took place more than an entire century after the flag’s adoption in 1777. The first claim was from a Hartford, Connecticut celebration during the first summer of 1861. In the late 1800s, schools all over the United States held Flag Day programs to contribute to the Americanization of immigrant children, and the observance caught on with individual communities.
In Waubeka, Wisconsin during 1894, musician and Civil War veteran LeRoy VanHorn and Bernard Cigrand formed the American Flag Day Association.
Cigrand observed the first Flag Day in his classroom at Stony Hill School in Fredonia June 14th, 1885. Cigrand's students wrote essays on the meaning of the flag and the following year, Cigrand made his first public proposal for the holiday in an article in the Chicago Argus. Cigrand didn’t stick with teaching, he became a dentist in Illinois, but he did stick with the flag, advocating for a national observance of the flag for decades.
Cigrand lobbied various politicians and received what were called "encouraging letters" from President Theodore Roosevelt who sent him a large autographed photo of himself and a White House dinner plate.
Cigrand achieved a major goal on May 30, 1916, when President Wilson issued a proclamation establishing a national flag day.
On June 14, 2004, 108th U.S. Congress unanimously voted on H.R. 662 declaring Flag Day originated in Waubeka, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.
Now, Stony Hill School is a historical site and the National Flag Day Foundation (of which Cigrand was once president) is still actively pursuing Cigrand’s mission. A yearly celebration of Flag Day occurs on the second Sunday in June, and patriots of not only Waubeka, WI but from across the Union gather to celebrate where Flag Day was founded.
Waubeka neighbors 80 miles to the North, Appleton, claim to have the oldest National Flag Day parade in the nation, held annually since 1950.
The National Flag Day Foundation has determined that there will not be a National Flag Day Foundation organized program, parade, family day, or other activities at the Americanism Center on June 14, 2020. The Foundation said, “While this was an extremely difficult decision, it is the right decision and sometimes doing what is right is not easy.”While the formal National Flag Day Foundation observance will not be taking place, they encourage you to observe what the flag means to you on her birthday.
The National Flag Day Foundation will be presenting an online program honoring all active military, veterans, and the American Flag. This year’s Flag Day program will be available on the National Flag Foundation Facebook page, website and YouTube, June 14.