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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June 14th – Today is Flag Day in America by Kaye Spencer

Flag Day at Kaye's house

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress authorized the 'stars and stripes' flag for the new United States. It wasn’t until 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as flag day.

For years prior to the official declaration of Flag Day, several states recognized a flag day, but the dates were all different. Then in August of 1949, by an Act of Congress, National Flag Day was officially established on June 14th. However, it wasn’t designated as an official federal holiday.

The first official flag is often referred to as the Betsy Ross Flag.

13-star flag flying in San Francisco - attribution below

Since the Betsy Ross House is the traditional site of Philadelphia’s Flay Day observance, here is a picture of her house.

Betsy Ross House - attribution below

Stony Hill School in Waubeka, Wisconson was the site of the first time Flag Day was officially observed. A teacher named Bernard J. Cigrand is credited with this event.
Stony Hill School - attribution below

I came across an entertaining article in the Washington Post dated June 10, 2011 and written by Marc Leepson regarding five common myths about the first American Flag. I’ve summarized, and added to, Mr. Leepson’s article:

Myth 1 “Betsy Ross made the first American Flag.”

Some historians deny this claim, because of the lack of credible, written records to support it. These historians base their beliefs upon letters and the congressional record of the time, which indicated the designer of the first flag was possibly Francis Hopkinson, an original signer of the Declaration of Independence (New Jersey), who possessed artistic skills. He also designed the seals and flags for the Navy, as well as contributed to the official U.S. seal.

However, other historians believe Betsy has just as much claim to the legend as Hopkinson, because,
“Betsy was paid a ‘large sum of money from the Pennsylvania State Navy Board for making flags’”.
“George Ross, a member of the Flag committee, was the uncle of Betsy's late husband, John. This could be one reason why Betsy was chosen to make the first flag”.

Myth 2 “The red, white, and blue colors symbolize American sacrifice.”

It could be as simple as red, white, and blue were the colors of the first flag of the American colonies, known as the Continental Colors, and the color scheme carried through to the later flag designs. These colors originated with the colors of the Union Jack of England.

Myth 3 “The Pledge of Allegiance has long been recited in Congress and other governmental bodies.”

Documents show that the pledge was written in1892 by Francis Bellamy, a magazine editor for a Boston-based “The Youth’s Companion”, for a nationwide public school celebration commemorating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival. It wasn’t until the Spanish American War in 1898 that it became a mandatory recitation in public school, and then only in New York. In 1942, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance.

Myth 4 “It is illegal to burn the American flag.”

Until the Supreme Court ruled on a case in 1989 (Texas v. Johnson, which declared that federal and state laws that protect the flag are in violation of free-speech protections), it was illegal to burn the flag. However, this decision has undergone tests of constitutional legality over the years since then on the grounds of the First Amendment rights of free speech. So, right now, it is legal to use the American flag in acts considered to be in the realm of free speech.

Myth 5 “It’s okay to wear a Stars and Stripes T-shirt.”

…“The U.S. Flag Code frown on the use of the flag ‘for advertising purposes’…and more…”. But this code is essentially not enforced, because it is, as you’ve already realized, unenforceable. To quote Captain Hector Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean… “The code is more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules…”

For your listening—and American patriotic—pleasure, I’ll leave you with this gem.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

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Images Attribution

13-star flag flying in San Francisco
By Makaristos - Own work, Public Domain,

Betsy Ross house
Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Stony Hill School
By Freekee/Kevin Hansen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Resources, Quote Attributions, and Further Reading

Washington Post Flag Myths article

Articles regarding the legality of flag desecration
Time Magazine: and )

ABC News:

Flag Day

The Flag of the United States of America
Images of the flag through history:

US History website

Betsy Ross flag quote


  1. Great info, Kaye! I had no idea that today was so special in U.S. History.

  2. Kristy,

    I wonder if part of the reason Flag Day isn't as notable is because it doesn't get the the media attention of Veterans' Day or Memorial Day, and that it falls in the summer when schools aren't typically in session.

  3. As usual, you've brought the past to life and added the details we often forget or didn't know. Thanks! Doris

    1. Thank you, Doris. I appreciate your comment, because I always learn so much from your well-researched and interesting articles.

  4. I fly the American flag every day. I loved your list of myths. I believed most of them. I'm disappointed about Betsy Ross not making the first flag. Bummer.
    People have done some crazy things with the flag, but I choose to honor its symbolic significance enough not to taint it in any way.
    Loved your blog, Kaye. You found some fascinating factoids.

  5. Sarah,

    I like the idea that Betsy Ross made the first flag, so I'm sticking with it. lol I agree with you about the crazy things people have done to and with our flag. *sigh*

    Thank you for stopping by to comment.

  6. I love flags. My husband posted an American flag or a Texas flag on the appropriate days. But, alas, a car banged into our mail box and took out our great flag we haven't reconstructed a new place to fly our flags. Out daughter was born on Flag Day, June 14...I love to remind her. She recalls thinking, as a child, that the flags were for her birthday.

  7. Celia,

    That's a sweet story about your daughter and her birthday...the funny things that kids think of. I take the decorative knob off the top of one of the gate posts to our chain link fence and slip the flag pole inside the hollow post. Not terribly classy, I suppose, but it's functional.