History of Flag Day


June 14 is the day the United States celebrates Flag Day. While it may not be as widely celebrated as other American holidays, it is one of the oldest. It was resolved by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, even before the conclusion of the American War of Independence, the Revolutionary War.

A hundred years ago in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson set June 14 as the official Flag Day by proclamation and Congress established it in 1949. The “Stars and Stripes” represents the symbol of America and was originally created by Betsy Ross in Philadelphia. The flag of red, white and blue became a popular rallying point throughout various points in American history.

The flag is often featured in other holidays: Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day. It appears on military and police uniforms and is the symbol of American troops who have fought in wars overseas. But it goes back to the beginning of America’s national history.

One of my favorite stories of that beginning was about Benjamin Franklin — one of the Committee of Five who worked on the Declaration of Independence (1776) as well as a contributor to the American Constitution (1787). As he left Independence Hall in Philadelphia at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he was asked this question by a lady: “Well Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied without hesitation:

“A republic, madam — if you can keep it.”

Is your flag flying today?

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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