Archive for the ‘Flag History’ Category

Flag Day

History records the first Flag Day celebration as being in the spring of 1861.  Hartford resident George Morris is commonly credited as initially coming up with the idea for Flag Day not long before the break out of the Civil War. Hartford was in the heart of pro-Union New England and many were upset with the South’s disregard for the official flag.  Morris brought his idea to Hartford Courant Editor Charles Dudley Warner, who published an editorial in the newspaper on June 14, 1861. The Courant Editorial led to Connecticut’s  General Assembly voting to make Connecticut the first state to recognize June 14th as Flag Day.

Poster commemorating the 140th Flag Day on 15 February 1917

Poster commemorating the 140th Flag Day on 15 February 1917

“It has been suggested that the day be hereafter celebrated in a quiet way by a general display of flags, etc.,” the editorial said. “We like the suggestion, and think that such an observation of the day would increase our love for and our loyalty to the Stars and Stripes. … So let every flag be hoisted and every window show.”

The idea of a Flag Day caught on slowly.  William T. Kerr in Pennsylvania founded the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania in 1888, and became the national chairman one year later. He attended President Harry S. Truman’s 1949 signing of the Act of Congress that formally established the observance.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed  June 14 as Flag Day in 1916, but it wasn’t until August 1949 that National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. The measure was signed into law by President Harry Truman with William T. Kerr in attendance.

Flag Day Holiday Status:

Although Flag Day is not celebrated as a Federal holiday, it’s a day for Americans to honor the history and heritage. It’s one of  the “extra special” flag flying days in the Flag Code. More on flag flying days.

When to Salute the Flag in a Parade

The Flag Code isn’t concise about when to salute the flag in a parade.  The wording is:

Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

USMC Color Guard in the Rose Bowl Parade

USMC Color Guard in the Rose Bowl Parade

So what do you do?  Salute every flag in a parade?  Salute the big ones, salute the ones attached to fire engines, salute the little Popsicle stick flags that the kids on the junior 4-H float are waving, or just stand and salute for the whole parade?

It may just be that the Flag Code wording is is a hold-over from older times when there weren’t as many flags being waved, or it may be that the code was intentionally left vague.  Here’s a couple of the more popular ideas:

One idea, and the one that I follow, is to salute the flag in a parade when it is being presented.  That is, when the flag is the focus or highlight of the group.  All should certainly stand to salute the flag in a parade when it’s first carried, usually by a color guard, and any time that a flag is carried in a formal way.  This includes any time that the flag precedes a marching band, military or government organization, or civil organization.

An interesting interpretation of this is that, as some say, we should salute the colors.  Specifically, the formal flags with a gold fringe.  There isn’t any part of the formal code that supports this though.  The fringe is just an addition and does not carry any special significance.

And some say that we should still salute every flag, whatever the size or way that it is carried.  There’s nothing wrong with saluting every flag, but many feel that it lessens the sincerity, reducing the salute to a mechanical action.

Whichever convention you choose, show your patriotism and set an example for others when the flag passes.  There are too many that ignore the flag and sit through the whole parade.  It’s acceptable for those who can’t stand, but disrespectful and missing the whole idea of most parades.

Proper way to salute the flag in a parade

Face the flag and stand at attention when you salute the flag.  Men should remove their hat, it’s not required for women.  Those in uniform should give a military salute.  It’s optional for veterans and out of uniform military.  All others should place their right hand over their heart.

15 Star and Stripe Flag

The original thirteen stars and stripe flag was soon outdated as Kentucky and Vermont were added to the union in 1791 and 1792.  Two new states meant two new stars and stripes were needed and the 15 Star and Stripe Flag was created.

15 Star and Stripe Flag

15 Star and Stripe Flag

The 15 Star and Stripe Flag flew over a lot of history.  It was the design that flew over Fort McHenry to inspire Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner. In 1805, the 15 Star and Stripe Flag flew over a military installation in the Old World for the first time when American Marine and Navy troops raised it over a conquered pirate stronghold in Tripoli.

Later, the 15 Star and Stripe Flag was our official banner in the war of 1812.  It flew over the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813 when our Navy defeated the Royal British Navy in one of the biggest naval battles of the war.  And it was flown by General Andrew Jackson during his victory at The Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.  It was the victory that ended the War of 1812 .

Star Spangled Banner 15 Star and Stripe Flag

The famous 15 Star and Strip Flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner has been restored and is on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  The special display is designed to protect the flag, yet allow visitors a close look.

Adding More Stars

The early 1800s saw a lot of new states added to the union, and Capt. Samuel C. Reid proposed to Congress that the stripes be returned to 13 representing the thirteen original colonies, and that a star be added for each new State. In 1818, President Monroe signed a bill creating a flag with 13 stripes and 20 stars with the provision that, as new states were added, a star is added to the union of the flag on the fourth of July following its date of admission.

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