National Flag Day

National Flag Day commemorates the day in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress approved the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States. Flag Day activities and traditions not only include parades and educational programs but fun contests for children and adults alike.

How to put American flag with the text overlay that says national flag day: read more

We often think about the American Flag in July, right?  I mean, July 4th is the BIG CELEBRATION, and the U.S. Flag is absolutely everywhere. On this day, Americans all over the world stand and sing the Star-Spangled Banner, light fireworks and wave the flag with pride!

But the American Flag actually has its own day, and we’re going to learn so much about it right here. Just keep reading!

When is National Flag Day?

National Flag Day is each year on June 14th!

What is National Flag Day?

American flag in the sky for national flag day

Is Flag Day an official federal holiday?

Actually, it isn’t!  

However, it is an official day, with an annual observance, here in the United States. Hence we don’t get a free day off of work.

And we do so love our days off, don’t we? LOL

To clarify, back in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson did make an official decree declaring June 14th Flag Day. This decree was meant to commemorate the resolution the Second Continental Congress made about the American Flag and its design. [1] 

But it wasn’t until August 3, 1949, that the US Congress voted to make June 14th the permanent date. 

In reality, President Wilson was not necessarily the originator of Flag Day!  

Years before Wilson issued his proclamation, there was a small town school teacher from Wisconsin named Bernard Cigrand. In 1885, Mr. Cigrand decided that he and his students needed to celebrate this momentous day and organized a birthday celebration to honor the day when the American Flag was “created”.

As a result, some dubb Bernard the “Father of Flag Day”! [2]

A Brief History of the American Flag

The history of the American Flag is rich indeed.  Who would have thought a woman at this time would be central to the American Revolution and remembered centuries later?

As we mentioned earlier, on June 14th, 1777, the Continental Congress took a break from their work on the Articles of Confederation to outline the details of the American Flag. 

As a result, they adopted the Flag resolution which stated, “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white,” and that “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

But what happened from here?

A seamstress from Philadelphia, Betsy Ross, happened.

Folk lore and legend says that George Washington commissioned her to sew a new flag for the fledgling nation. But this may or may not be true.

And though there isn’t any hard evidence that Betsy made the very FIRST flag, there is quite a bit of information that leads one to believe that she possibly did.

So What connection did Betsy Ross have that would make it seem like she made the first Flag?

In the first place, her late husband’s uncle was a member of the Flag Committee.

Furthermore, in 1774, Betsy and her husband worked with George Washington on some bed hangings.

Also, in 1777, the Pennsylvania State Navy board paid Betsy some big dollars for making wartime flags.

Finally, over the next 50 years, Betsy continued to make tons of flags for the government. [3]

Did Betsy Ross design the first flag?

Close up photo of an American flag

Definitely not. 

On the contrary, the National Flag Foundation says there is a lot of evidence that congressman Francis Hopkinson, one of the men to sign of the Declaration of Independence, was actually responsible for designing the first flag. [4]

When the Continental Congress adopted the Flag resolution, Francis was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department and also was a part of creating other designs for the government. Two pieces worth noting are the Great Seal of New Jersey and the Great Seal of the United States. [5]

Not too shabby! 

The Evolution of the American Flag

At first, the American flag’s design consisted of thirteen white stars on a navy background and thirteen, alternating red and white stripes.

Each star correspondingly represented a state, and each stripe represented one of the thirteen original colonies who declared their independence from Great Britain. [6]

As a result of new states being added to the Union, the flag changed many times. Below you can read the evolution of the flag, how many stars it had and what states the US added during which years.

Variations Of the American Flag

  1. 1777 -1795: 13 stars and 13 stripes
  2. 1795 – 1818: 15 stars and 15 stripes; Vermont and Kentucky 
  3. 1818 – 1819: 20 start and 13 stripes; Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, and Mississippi 
  4. 1819 ~ 1820: 21 stars and 13 stripes; Illinois
  5. 1820 ~ 1822: 23 stars and 13 stripes; Alabama and Maine
  6. 1822 ~ 1836: 24 stars and 13 stripes; Missouri
  7. 1836 ~ 1837: 25 stars and 13 stripes; Arkansas
  8. 1837 ~ 1845: 26 stars and 13 stripes; Michigan
  9. 1845 ~ 1846: 27 stars and 13 stripes; Florida
  10. 1846 ~ 1847: 28 stars and 13 stripes; Texas
  11. 1847 ~ 1848: 29 stars and 13 stripes; Iowa
  12. 1848 ~ 1851: 30 stars and 13 stripes; Wisconsin
  13. 1851 ~ 1858: 31 stars and 13 stripes; California
  14. 1858 ~ 1859: 32 stars and 13 stripes; Minnesota
  15. 1859 ~ 1861: 33 stars and 13 stripes; Oregon
  16. 1861 ~ 1863: 34 stars and 13 stripes; Kansas
  17. 1863 ~ 1865: 35 stars and 13 stripes; West Virginia 
  18. 1865 ~ 1867: 36 stars and 13 stripes; Nevada
  19. 1867 ~ 1877 37: stars and 13 stripes; Nebraska
  20. 1877 ~ 1890: 38 stars and 13 stripes; Colorado
  21. 1890 ~ 1891: 43 stars and 13 stripes; North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Idaho 
  22. 1891 ~ 1896: 44 stars and 13 stripes; Wyoming
  23. 1896 ~ 1908: 45 stars and 13 stripes; Utah
  24.  1908 ~ 1912: 46 stars and 13 stripes; Oklahoma
  25. 1912 ~ 1959: 48 stars and 13 stripes; New Mexico and Arizona
  26. 1959 ~ 1960: 49 stars and 13 stripes; Alaska
  27. 1960 ~ present: 50 stars and 13 stripes; Hawaii

Here is a great video showing the progression of the American Flag.

It includes all of the official US Flags as well as many other variations of the flag that the government has flown for different reasons at different times. 

The 50-Star Flag

On August 21, 1959, President Eisenhower officially ordered the 50-star flag. Interestingly, Bob Heft, a 17 year old high school student, designed it before Hawaii was a state. He then sent it to the president certain that his hunch would come true. And come true it did! [7] 

So this is the version that has been in use since 1960 and will remain so until the U.S. admits another state to the union. 

How to Properly Retire an American Flag

Photo collage of three different images containing the American flag

When I was in 8th grade, my elementary school, Mt. Pisgah, in Cordova, TN retired an American Flag. It was a very cool and interesting event albeit one that I have yet to experience again.

When we assembled in the gym, I was incredibly surprised to see a metal garbage can sitting in the middle of the floor and even more surprised to watch the officials in attendance place the flag in the bin, light it on fire and proceed to burn it.

I’ll be honest, it felt strange watching it go up in flames, but our principal, Mrs. Lane had assured us it was indeed the proper way to retire the flag, and we were doing the right thing.

So, contrary to that awkward feeling I had, that is how you should actually do it.

According to the United States Flag Code, Title 4, Section 8k, the flag should be retired when it is in such condition that is “no longer a fitting emblem for display” and should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning it. 

Flags USA

The Flag Code

To be sure, there are some very important things to know about how to use, display and carry the American Flag. Here are a few of them worth noting.

However, if you would like to read the entire document, just visit the U.S. Flag Code.

  • It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
  • The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.
  • The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.
  • The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat. When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
  • The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right, the flag’s own right, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.
  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

Ideas for Celebrating National Flag Day

Photo of an American flag

Think of flag day like the 4th of July but in June! Here are some fun ways to celebrate:

  • Find and attend a local ceremony for National Flag Day
  • Throw a backyard barbeque and decorate with American Flags everywhere!
  • Buy a new American Flag and have a “retirement” party for your old one
  • Bake a cake and decorate it with Strawberries, blueberries and marshmallows to look like the US Flag

Nicknames for the Flag

Indeed, this red, white and blue banner holds a special place in the hearts of Americans. It is both a symbol of our freedoms and a hope for our future.

Consequently, there are some common and beloved nicknames for the U.S. Flag:

  • Old Glory
  • The Stars and Stripes
  • The Star Spangled Banner
Picture of Abraham Lincoln

Noteworthy Stats about the American Flag

The American Flag has a deep and rich history! Have you ever been to a flag retirement ceremony?

For more days like National Flag Day, just visit our calendar to see what is coming up next!


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