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–by Joanna Hallac

Yes, that’s right; it’s Flag Day tomorrow, June 14th. It’s the day the country has been waiting for all year, behind Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, July 4th, Labor Day, Columbus Day…shall I go on? In all seriousness though, while we may not even notice Flag Day on our calendars anymore, it is a day that was designated specifically to pay homage to our nation’s flag, the foremost symbol of America.

School children from Prince George’s County, Maryland saluting the flag on Flag Day, Theodor Horydczak, circa 1950 (Library of Congress)

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress “Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Prior to 1916, at which point President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation denoting June 14th as the commemoration of Flag Day for the first time, merely a few cities in the country celebrated the day. Congressional legislation for the formal declaration of national Flag Day didn’t come until 1949; Harry Truman signed it into law. The law also called for a presidential proclamation for Flag Day every year on June 14th.

Our flag has, of course, evolved since 1777, multiplying its number and design of stars to keep up with our growing country. According to the Library of Congress, however, the arrangement of stars continued to change depending on the flag-maker until finally, in 1912, President Taft designated a permanent arrangement for the then-48 stars to be arranged in six rows of eight. With the addition of Hawaii as the final state in 1959, the current version of our flag has been around since 1960, with no changes foreseen in the near-term. (Could Puerto Rico and D.C., perhaps, one day become the 51st and 52nd stars on our flag? Time will tell.)

“The Birth of Old Glory,” Percy Morgan, 1917 (Library of Congress)

So, while you’re out walking around tomorrow, be sure to take a look around and see if you notice a greater than usual number of flags being flown, as it is the best and easiest way for people to commemorate Flag Day after all. It is also nice to remember that we live in a country that, despite all the partisanship that we tend to see these days among our politicians, still equally protects its citizens’ right to salute the flag or burn the flag in an exercise of the same set of first amendment rights guaranteed to us all those many years ago. With all the changes we see happening today at an ever-increasing pace, it is nice when some things do in fact stay the same.

Happy Flag Day, everyone!

Source consulted:

Library of Congress, American Memory

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