The American flag-the familiar “Stars and Stripes”-was officially adopted on June 14, 1777, almost a year after independence was declared. The United States celebrates Flag Day on June 14 each year, the flag’s “birthday.”
The first abortive effort to make Flag Day a holiday came in 1861, in the early days of the Civil War. George Morris, a resident of Hartford, Connecticut, flush with wartime patriotism, urged that the anniversary of the flag be celebrated as a holiday. Hartford itself went along with his suggestion, proudly flying the flag from its public buildings and putting on a program of support and prayer for the preservation of the Union, but it did not spread beyond there at that time, nor did Hartford itself apparently continue with an observance on subsequent years.
On the occasion of the centenary of the flag in 1877, the U.S. government requested that the flag be flown from all public buildings to mark the event. For the next several decades, there were scattered observances of what came to be known unofficially as Flag Day each year on June 14, often as part of school educational programs. Not surprisingly, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia took to celebrating the day each year. (Ross being credited with the design of the 1777 flag.)
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing June 14 as Flag Day. Congress followed suit in 1949. The final step of making Flag Day a federal holiday was never taken however. It remains just a “day to honor the flag and celebrate its birth.” It is also not a formal holiday on the state level, except in Pennsylvania.
Flag Day passes largely unnoticed in much of the country, but is an occasion for major celebrations in others. Among the more notable annual observances of Flag Day are:
* Appleton, Wisconsin
Since 1950, Appleton has staged a major parade every Flag Day. In 2010, the theme was “Saluting the Stars and Stripes” and a tribute to armed forces veterans. Participating in the parade were veterans’ organizations, scout troops, floats, decorated vehicles, walking units, drum & bugle corps, and marching bands.
* Fairfield, Washington
Little Fairfield, Washington, in the Spokane area, with a population hovering around 500, boasts the oldest continuous Flag Day celebration in the nation. Since 1910, in the prehistory of Flag Day, Fairfield has held an annual parade and related commemorative events.
* Quincy, Massachusetts
Each year on the Saturday closest to June 14, Quincy holds their “Quincy Flag Day Parade & Celebration.” The parade covers 1.2 miles through town, and the celebration includes the raising of a 30 foot by 60 foot flag, a fly-over, a medley of patriotic music, a presentation of awards to the parade grand marshal and the recipient of the Richard J. Koch Youth Service Reward. 2010 marked the 60th such Flag Day celebration in Quincy, since the first was organized by Koch Club founder Richard J. Koch.
* Troy, New York
Troy bills their “Troy Flag Day Parade” as the biggest Flag Day parade in the country. The two mile parade route draws 50,000 and more spectators each year. 2010 marked the 43rd year of the parade.