June 14th is Flag Day, a day to honor the creation of the American flag. While you probably know the pledge to our Star Spangled Banner by heart, some of these Flag Day facts may come as a surprise. Before you get to ready to display your Stars and Stripes this year, learn about the reason for its signature look, how a high school student influenced its current design, and other things you might not know about the American flag.
It may seem like Old Glory has been around since the pilgrims first landed at Plymouth, but the official adoption of the American flag actually didn't happen until June 14, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to pass the Flag Act of 1777. The resolution created an official flag for the country, just a little over a year after the Declaration of Independence was issued. The Act also gave some guidelines for the new flag, mainly that it “be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
Beefore we settled on our current Stars and Stripes, we tested out quite a few designs. All together, there have been 27 different versions of the flag. Most of the alterations are due to new states being added. The current design dates back to July 4, 1960, when the 50th star was added to represent Hawaii, which became the 50th state in 1959.
The mastermind behind the version of the flag used today is thought to be one very dedicated high-school student. In 1958, Robert G. Heft used his mother’s sewing machine to craft a 50-star flag for his class history project. Alaska and Hawaii hadn’t officially been added as states yet which may be why, even though Heft put in 12 hours of manual labor applying 100 hand-cut stars on each side of an old 48-star flag, his teacher gave him a “B-“ for the assignment.
But, after President Eisenhower made a personal phone call to Heft – his design for a new flag was selected from a pool of over 1,500 submissions – the teacher changed his mind and gave him a much deserved “A”.
There are two reasons to celebrate on June 14. Flag Day shares the spotlight with the U.S. Army. Two years before the Flag Act was passed in 1777, Congress formally authorized the enlistment of soldiers to fight in what became known as the Continental Army in support of the American Revolution. So don’t forget to wish the Army a happy 240th birthday.
A lot of thought went into the design of the stars and stripes on the American flag but the colors chosen to represent the United States also have significant meaning. The Textile Color Card Association of the United States is responsible for creating the palate of colors used by both public and private institutions. The U.S. Army issues a reference guide of acceptable shades to be used in local, state and national flags. White, “Old Glory Red” and “Old Glory Blue,” are the colors of the national flag and they have symbolic meaning. Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
The first Flag Day celebration didn’t happen at the White House or in the streets of some small town but in a local classroom. On June 14, 1885, it's believed a 19-year-old teacher held the first Flag Day celebration when he assigned essays on the flag and its significance in order to commemorate the adoption the flag on June 14, 1777.
Many scholars credit Francis Hopkinson – the man also responsible for creating the Great Seal of the United States – with coming up with the original idea for the flag’s design. Mary Young Pickersgill sewed the famous “Star Spangled Banner” with 15 stars and stripes that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. That's the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our national anthem.
We can’t think of the American flag without thinking of the Pledge of Allegiance. It was written by a Francis Bellamy in 1892. Bellamy worked for a children’s magazine and he advocated making October 12th a national holiday called Columbus Day. His pledge, the Pledge of Allegiance, was said for the first time on Columbus Day in 1892 by millions of students across the country.
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