A poster commemorating the first official flag day, June 14th 1917
No names today. Remember tomorrow is Flag Day.
In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777.
Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, though on June 14, 1937, Pennsylvania became the first (and only) U.S. state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday, beginning in the town of Rennerdale. Title 36 of the United States Code, Subtitle I, Part A, CHAPTER 1, § 110 is the official statute on Flag Day; however, it is at the President’s discretion to proclaim officially the observance.
The national flag of the United States of America (or the American flag) consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton (referred to specifically as the “union”) bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars. The fifty stars on the flag represent the 50 states and the 13 stripes represent the original thirteen colonies that rebelled against the British monarchy and became the first states in the Union. Nicknames for the flag include the “Stars and Stripes”, “Old Glory,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” (also the name of the national anthem).
The modern meaning of the flag, was forged in December 1860, when Major Robert Anderson, acting without orders, moved the American garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, in defiance of the overwhelming power of the new Confederate States of America. Goodheart argues this was the opening move of the Civil War, and the flag was used throughout the North to symbolize American nationalism and rejection of secessionism.
- Before that day, the flag had served mostly as a military ensign or a convenient marking of American territory, flown from forts, embassies, and ships, and displayed on special occasions like the Fourth of July. But in the weeks after Major Anderson’s surprising stand, it became something different. Suddenly the Stars and Stripes flew – as it does today, and especially as it did after September 11 – from houses, from storefronts, from churches; above the village greens and college quads. For the first time American flags were mass-produced rather than individually stitched and even so, manufacturers could not keep up with demand. As the long winter of 1861 turned into spring, that old flag meant something new. The abstraction of the Union cause was transfigured into a physical thing: strips of cloth that millions of people would fight for, and many thousands die for. .
The flag of the United States is one of the nation’s most widely recognized symbols. Within the U.S. it is frequently displayed, not only on public buildings, but on private residences. It is also used as a motif on decals for car windows, and clothing ornaments such as badges and lapel pins. Throughout the world it is used in public discourse to refer to the U.S., not only as a nation, state, government, and set of policies, but also as a set of ideals.
The flag has become a powerful symbol of Americanism, and is proudly flown on many occasions, with giant outdoor flags used by retail outlets to draw customers. Desecration of the flag is considered a public outrage, but is protected as a form of free speech. In worldwide comparison, Testi (2010) notes that the United States is not unique in adoring its banner, for in Scandinavian countries their flags are also “beloved, domesticated, commercialized and sacralized objects”