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Flag Day

The Flag of the United States of America was born almost a year after the Declaration of Independence.  The Stars and Stripes to which we pledge allegiance was authorized on June 14, 1777.  Just as we celebrate the birth of independence on July 4th each year, the people of our Nation celebrate the birth of our Flag every year on June 14th.

The United States Flag first flew in a Flag Day celebration during the first summer of the Civil war, when it was flown at Hartford, Connecticut on June 14, 1861. A few years later on June 14, 1877 the flag celebrated it's 100th birthday. At that time the U.S. Government requested that the flag be flown from all public buildings to celebrate its first century. From that point on, Flag Day celebrations became a popular but not yet official, celebrations.

Most early (1885 - 1900) Flag Day celebrations were independent activities, often as a part of school educational programs. A school district in Fredonia, Wisconsin began as early as 1885 to celebrate "Flag Birthday", followed by schools in New York a few years later. The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia conducted a Flag Day celebration in 1891. By 1893 the children of Philadelphia were gathering at Independence Square to celebrate the birth of the flag. (To this day the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the only state where Flag Day is a legal holiday, though it is observed in all 50 states as a day of honoring our Flag.)

The following year (1894) 300,000 school children participated in Flag Day celebrations promoted by the Illinois American Flag Day Association. The popularity of the event, promoted by Veterans' and other patriotic organizations, quickly gained more support. Flag Day became a true "grass-roots" movement, flourishing under the patriotic efforts of educators and school children. Finally, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a Presidential proclamation making June 14th a day of honoring our flag and celebrating its birth.

It seemed that United States citizens enjoyed displaying their flags and celebrating its birth each year, but there was little consistency as there were no federal or state regulations to provide guidelines regarding display of the flag. Thus on Flag Day, 1923 the National Flag Code was adopted by the National Flag Conference. A similar conference the following year made some slight changes, and these guidelines became the basis for a joint resolution of Congress on June 22, 1942 (and amended December 22, 1942) to become Public Law 829; Chapter 806, 77th Congress, 2nd session. This series of activities provided all citizens with some basic principles to follow in display of the Flag. You can find these guidelines in Title 36 of the United States Code.

Not until 1949 did the United States Congress take formal action on the matter of Flag Day. On August 3, 1949 President Harry S Truman signed their resolution "That the 14th day of June in each year is hereby designated as Flag Day." Today it is the right of every American to proudly display the flag that speaks of our freedom. But with every RIGHT comes some RESPONSIBILITY as well...including the responsibility to display the flag properly and with respect. In the following pages we will share with you just what that means.

The Flag was defined by the Second Continental Congress, meeting at Philadelphia on June 14, 1777 in a resolution that read:

"Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation." (§1.)*

Of course, we know our flag now has 50 stars, after Congress determined that:

"On the admission of a new State into the union one star shall be added to the union of the flag, and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission." (§2.)*

*(United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, as amended)

The UNION of the flag is the field of blue containing the 50 stars.

The length of the flag is called the FLY and its height from top to bottom is called the HOIST.

The pole on which the flag is mounted is called the STAFF, the top of which is the PEAK, and if the flag is attached to the staff with a rope, that rope is called the HALYARD.

Another term you will need to understand is what is meant by "THE FLAG'S OWN RIGHT." To understand this, think of yourself as the flag facing the audience. The Flag's Own Right would be the side where your right hand is located. As we look at proper display of the flag in the following pages, we will include pictures and diagrams to help you understand how to properly display the flag.

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