Today, June 14, 235 years ago the Second Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official symbol of our country. Up until that time several different flags were used including one with 13 alternating red and white stripes and the Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner which was a compromise between the radicals who wanted a separate nation and those more sympathetic toward the crown.
Gen. Washington felt it wasn’t a good idea to fly a flag that resembled that of the enemy and asked the Continental Congress to adopt an official flag. On June 14, 1777 they passed a resolution stating “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white” and that “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Legend states that Betsy Ross made the first flag but there is no official documentation of who came up with the design and whether or not she actually made the first flag. In 1870 her grandson, William Canby, held a press conference telling of her possible role in the creation of the first flag. This was the first time the public had heard of her contribution.
Defining the flag’s look
The flag took on various shapes through the years as new states were added and in 1818 Congress passed an act providing for 13 stripes in honor of the 13 original colonies and one star for each state. In 1912 President William Howard Taft signed an executive order that clarified what the flag should look like. Up until that time some flags were oddly proportioned or had six or eight pointed stars instead of five.
Flag Day was first observed by a Wisconsin teacher, Bernard Cigrand in 1885. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing June 14 as Flag Day and in 1949 President Harry Truman signed legislation officially designating June 14 as National Flag Day.
Ohio plays a part in final design
A young Ohio student played a part in the final design of today’s 50 star flag. In 1960 seventeen year old Bob Heft borrowed his mother’s sewing machine and added two more stars to the original 48. Alaska had just been added to the union and he foresaw that Hawaii would soon follow. He stitched 50 stars in a proportional pattern and handed it in to his history teacher for a class project. He also sent the flag to his congressman, Walter Moeller, who then presented it to President Eisenhower after both states joined the union. The President chose Heft’s design and on July 4, 1960 Heft and President Eisenhower stood together as the 50 star flag was raised for the first time. Heft’s teacher changed his grade from a B- to an A.
Proper flag etiquette
- The flag should always be displayed with the stars in the upper left corner—whether it is hung vertically or horizontally.
- The flag should always be illuminated either by sunlight or another light source while on display.
- The flag should always be kept aloft and never touch the ground.
- The flag should never appear on clothing, bedding, or decorative items.
- No insignias, drawings or other markings should be added to the flag.
- When other flags are flown on the same pole Old Glory should be at the peak.
- Old flags should be properly destroyed by burning.
- When not on display the flag should be folded in a rectangular manner with the star-studded field on top.
Respect the flag
I wish more people would follow the proper flag etiquette. Nothing disturbs me more than to see the flag improperly displayed or thrown on the ground, or, even worse—thrown in the trash. Remember, many have died protecting that flag and what it stands for and it should always be treated with the respect it deserves.
- Guide to honoring the flag this Flag Day (newsobserver.com)