The Origins of Flag Day: Birth of the American Flag

The Origins of Flag Day: Birth of the American Flag
Page content

Early Conception

Why is Flag Day celebrated in the United States? Like other holidays, Flag Day originated from an unofficial celebration that eventually became very popular. In 1885, a Wisconsin schoolteacher named B.J. Cigrand wanted his students to celebrate the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of the American flag in 1777. As one of the first advocates of the “Flag Birthday” who wanted the public to celebrate the Stars and Stripes, Cigrand appealed to many newspapers and magazines to make June 14 the official birthday of the flag.

Four years later, a New York City teacher named George Balch pushed for a celebration of the American flag for his students. Eventually, the State Board of Education in New York adopted Balch’s celebration. Other states began celebrating the Stars and Stripes in the years that followed following years. For example, Pennsylvania celebrated Flag Day in 1893 by carrying flags and singing a variety of patriotic songs.

Rise to an National Holiday

In 1894, Illinois formed the American Flag Day Association, which B.J. Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn headed. These two supporters continued the push for the celebration of Flag Day. On June 14, 1894, over 300,000 children in Chicago public schools celebrated the event. It would only be a matter of time before the holiday would become accepted as an official holiday.

Where did Flag Day originate officially? In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day an official holiday that would be celebrated on June 14. Even though this proclamation was official, it would not be until 1949 that President Truman would sign an Act of Congress designating June 14 as National Flag Day.

Flag Day is still celebrated today by millions of Americans each year. Celebrations typically include parades as well as American flags displayed across the United States. Even though it is not a federal holiday, it is still important to recognize how it represents American values.

How to Honor the Flag

American Flag Etiquette

In order to celebrate Flag Day, it is important to know a few guidelines when respecting the flag. Here are five guidelines every American should know when celebrating Flag Day–or perhaps handling a flag.

1. The proper way to discard a worn, torn or dirty flag is to burn it. Never throw the flag in the garbage, as this would be a sign of disrespect.

2. The flag should be used solely for its display purposes. Never use it for clothing, decoration or drapery.

3. Make sure to take care of the flag and never put it in a situation where it can become easily damaged or torn.

4. Keep the flag in its original state and never add anything in order to enhance the flag. For example, do not add any additional stars to the flag as this would be disrespectful.

5. Take down the flag in case of severe weather, as this would avoid having the flag potentially damaged.

Flag Day is to honor America’s flag, which represents the freedom America possesses today. Remember to celebrate every June 14 by displaying and honoring the American flag.


This post is part of the series: All About Holidays

Ever wonder how certain holidays originated? Luckily, this series provides vital information on particular holidays that we celebrate each year.

  1. How Much Do You Know About Memorial Day?
  2. About Flag Day: Reasons for Celebrating and Origination