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Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Flag Day Has Civil War Roots

Posted By on June 14, 2012

Although National Flag Day was not officially recognized by the federal government until Congress established it in 1949, earlier celebrations are worth noting.

June 14, 1777, was the date the Second Continental Congress adopted the flag of the United States.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson, by proclamation, named June 14 as “Flag Day.”

Although the above poster from 1917 states that it was the 140th Anniversary of Flag Day, the reference is to the adoption of the flag, not to the official recognition of the day.

On 14 June 1937, Pennsylvania became the first, and so far the only state, to make Flag Day a state holiday.

One Civil War recognition has been found in the wikipedia article on Flag Day:

The earliest reference to the suggestion of a “Flag Day” is cited in Kansas: a Cyclopedia of State History, published by Standard Publishing Company of Chicago in 1912. It credits George Morris of Hartford, Connecticut:

To George Morris of Hartford, Conn., is popularly given the credit of suggesting “Flag Day,” the occasion being in honor of the adoption of the American flag on June 14, 1777. The city of Hartford observed the day in 1861, carrying out a program of a patriotic order, praying for the success of the Federal arms and the preservation of the Union.

The observance apparently did not become a tradition.

It is also worth noting that June 14 is the official birthday of the army.  On 14 June 1775, the Congress created the Continental Army.

The original law recognizing Flag Day, gave discretion to the President to make an official proclamation recognizing the occasion.  Today, the recognition of the flag and its history has become a week-long event and is supervised by the National Flag Day Foundation.

The week of June 14 is designated as “National Flag Week.” During National Flag Week, the president will issue a proclamation urging U.S. citizens to fly the American flag for the duration of that week. The flag should also be displayed on all government buildings. Some organizations hold parades and events in celebration of America’s national flag and everything it represents.

Philadelphia’s celebration of Flag Day centers around the Betsy Ross House where tradition indicates that she sewed the first American flag.

Flag Day is between Memorial Day and Independence Day.  Graves of veterans in Pennsylvania are decorated with flags just before Memorial Day and the flags are required to remain in place through July 4.  According to an article that appeared in the Patriot-News (Harrisburg) on 28 May 2012, taxpayers usually pay for the flags through their county governments and they are appropriately placed by members of veterans organizations sometimes assisted by scouts.

The picture at the top of this post is of the flag display at one of the war memorials in Shamokin, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

A previous post on this blog described the American Flags of the Civil War.


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