Grand Old Flag

June 14 marks the 67th “official” Flag Day observance in the United States. However, the idea of having an annual day to specifically celebrate the flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. B.J. Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher, arranged for his pupils to observe June 14, the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes, as “Flag Birthday.”

The idea quickly picked up steam. On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, planned flag ceremonies for his students. His idea of observing a day to honor the flag was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.

In 1894, the governor of New York directed that on June 14 the flag be displayed on all public buildings. That same year on—you guessed it—June 14 the first general public school children’s celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held in Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks, with more than 300,000 children participating.

Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916. On August 3, 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day.

At Forest Lawn, the historic presentation of the nation’s first flag by Betsy Ross to General George Washington is captured in both mosaic and stained glass. At Hollywood Hills, the scene is part of the Birth of Liberty mosaic, one of 25 eventful scenes in the early history of America. The Besty Ross Window, depicting the first flag, is located in the Freedom Mausoleum in Glendale.

As we observe Flag Day 2018, we can thank the persistence of many people—most of them children—for making it a special day of observance.