National Flag Day

National Flag Day is celebrated annually on June 14. However, it is not an official federal holiday. It commemorates the adoption of the United States flag on June 14, 1777 by the Second Continental Congress. They gave a thumbs up, approving the Stars and Stripes designed by Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, who also designed the Great Seal and first coin of the United States. According to legend, the first flag was created by Betsy Ross and commissioned by George Washington in 1776. Betsy operated an upholstery shop in Philadelphia which also repaired uniforms and made tents.

The Flag Resolution stated “That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Although the United States flag was officially adopted on that day, a Flag Day was not suggested until years later in 1861, when it was celebrated locally in Harford, Connecticut. However it apparently did not become an annual tradition. On June 14, 1877 Flag Day was observed nationally for the first time. But still it was not an official holiday. In 1885 a school teacher in Wisconsin originated the idea of an annual flag day and had his school observe it. Over the next few decades, several other individuals suggested an annual flag day, but creating a National Flag Day did not gain nationwide attention until 1916. It was President Woodrow Wilson who that year, issued a proclamation establishing Flag Day on June 14. Still it was not until August of 1949 that the National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

Old Glory became the nickname for the flag in 1824. A sea captain, William Driver, was given a large flag sewn by his mother and other local ladies, on his appointment to command his own ship. As he was leaving the harbor, the Captain unfurled the new flag and said, “Behold Old Glory.” The name stuck. That flag had a colorful history and today it hangs in the Smithsonian Institution. The term, “Old Glory” continues to symbolize respect for the many countries where Captain Driver sailed around the world.

Every year, the president issues a proclamation on Flag Day, which has since 1966 also become known as National Flag Week, urging Americans to proudly display the flag. “On Flag Day and during National Flag Week, we celebrate the enduring strength and promise that the stars and stripes on our flag have always embodied as they fly proudly across our country and around the world. Our flag tells America’s story — the story of an ever-evolving Nation…It is an emblem of our strength at home and abroad, synonymous with America as a force for good in the world…Old Glory stands for hope, pride, and progress.”