Proud American

Flag Day: What is it and why do we celebrate it?

Look out for the red, white, and blue this week as the United States celebrates Flag Day. Here's what you should know about the special occasion, which pays tribute to the Stars and Stripes on June 14.

Why is Flag Day celebrated? 

Flag Day honors a June 14, 1777, resolution from the Second Continental Congress, which called for an official United States flag. 

The resolution called for the flag to "be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."

What is the history behind Flag Day? 

A number of figures in the 1800s led the charge to recognize the importance of the flag.

Hartford, Conn., resident George Morris in 1861 got his town "to undertake a patriotic celebration on behalf of the Union," according to a Philly.com report, which said the idea failed to become popular. 

Flag Day was unofficially observed 16 years later on June 14, 1877, the Department of Defense said in a blog post. The flag waved nationwide from public buildings for the occasion, a report from 2011 said. 

One of the more famous figures was Wisconsin teacher Bernard Cigrand. In 1885, he put a flag in an inkwell and tasked his students to write essays about the flag, the National Flag Day Foundation says online. Cigrand would spend decades championing the flag, and even became the editor-in-chief of the “American Standard,” a magazine devoted to American emblems, according to the foundation. 

William Kerr established the American Flag Day Foundation of Western Pennsylvania in 1888, TribLive.com reported in 2012. Kerr reportedly met nine presidents and contacted many politicians over the 67 years he spent seeking an official day for the flag. 

"He was a strong personality, a force of will," his grandson Thomas Kerr told the paper at the time. "He had no secretary. He did it all himself."

There were also other efforts. In 1889, George Bolch, a New York City principal, made his school have events in observance, and in 1893, Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania's Elizabeth Duane Gillespie fought for Philadelphia's public buildings to have flags, according to Philly.com. 

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When was a proclamation for Flag Day issued? 

May 30, 1916. "I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as Flag Day with special patriotic exercises," President Woodrow Wilson wrote. Wilson had been stirred by a conversation with Kerr, according to TribLive. 

President Harry Truman later signed Flag Day's permanent observance into law in 1949, according to publications.usa.gov

Is Flag Day a federal holiday? 

No. However, Flag Day is a state holiday in New York and Pennsylvania

What are some Flag Day traditions? 

Some places in the United States hold Flag Day parades. Presidents have also issued proclamations for National Flag Week. Former President Obama's 2016 proclamation called on both federal government buildings and all Americans to display the flag.