Wave That Flag

US FlagOn June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the flag of the United States. The flag, fraught with symbolism as flags are supposed to be, was set out in the resolution they set forth.

Resolved, that the Flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.

For more than a century, scattered states and many cities and towns celebrated the adoption of the stars and stripes, and finally in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation which established a national Flag Day, to be celebrated on the anniversary of that resolution, June 14. President Calvin Coolidge followed suit in 1927. In 1949, while President Harry Truman presided over the nation, National Flag Day was established by an act of Congress

According to the traditional story of the creation of the flag, George Washington commissioned Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress and upholsterer, to create the flag in 1776.

Although there is some debate about the story of the flag, historians agree that Mrs. Ross did indeed sew flags and that she and General Washington knew one another. In fact, her pew at Christ Church in Philadelphia was next to the pew belonging to George and Martha Washington. Scholars also agree that one of the two men who accompanied George Washington to commission a flag was her late husband's uncle, George Ross.

We also know that it is a fact that Betsy was married to John Ross, who was a militia member who was guarding a magazine near the Delaware River when an explosion killed him. Betsy, who became a widow at the tender age of 24, made her living mending uniforms, making tents and blankets, and whatever else she could for the Continental Army. It is also a fact that on May 29, 1777, Betsy Ross was paid a very large sum of money from the Pennsylvania State Navy Board for making flags. After the Revolution, she made American flags until she retired in 1827.

There is a story, perhaps some would say "legend," which has been handed down over the years about President Theodore Roosevelt. The story goes that on June 14, 1908, just outside the city of Philadelphia, the President saw a man blowing his nose on what he thought was the American flag. So offended he was that he picked up a stick and began to hit the man with it. He had hit the man a couple of times when he realized that it was not a flag, but a blue linen handkerchief with white stars. The President apologized, but only after hitting the man one more time, he said, because he was "riled up with national pride" over the fact that the hanky looked so much like Old Glory.

The longest-running Flag Day parade is the parade in Fairfield, Washington, which was first held in 1910, five years after Fairfield became a town and six years before President Wilson signed the proclamation which made it a national holiday. In 1918, the parade was a very small one due to the pandemic of the Spanish flu, but the show did go on.

The town, which has fewer than 650 residents, celebrates the parade's centennial on June 14, 2010 with a huge parade and an all-schools reunion.

The largest Flag Day parade is Troy, New York's procession which attracts 50,000 spectators along the route each year.

Between 1776 and 2010, there have been twenty-seven official versions of the flag. The last official version was presented on July 4, 1960, after the 1959 entry of Hawaii into the Union, hence necessitating the fiftieth star.