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Flag Day, celebrating the birthday of the American flag

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The history of the American flag goes back to 1776 when George Washington asked Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to sew a flag in anticipation of the new American nation. On June 14, 1777, John Adams introduced the flag to Congress in Philadelphia, saying: "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." There have been 27 versions of the flag since, the current version created July 4, 1960 when Hawaii was admitted as the fiftieth state.

A historic holiday, Flag Day originates from June 14, 1885 when nineteen-year-old school teacher Bernard John Cigrand asked his students to write essays on what the flag meant to them. Stony Hill School, the small schoolroom in Waubeka, Wisconsin where he taught is now a historical site and Cigrand went down in history as the father of Flag Day.

As the father of Flag Day, Cigrand spent his life speaking to the importance of respecting and honoring our nation and flag. After the holiday’s first celebration at Stony Hill School, Cigrand publicly campaigned for the adoption of Flag Day as a national holiday to honor the flag’s birthday.

In 1886, he wrote an article title, “The Fourteenth of June” in the Chicago Argus newspaper. Then, in 1888, he delivered a speech in Chicago to the Sons of America, emphasizing the importance of a flag holiday. This speech led to the publication of a magazine called the “American Standard” by Sons of America with Cigrand as editor. The magazine called attention to American history and emblems, including the flag. Cigrand authored hundreds of articles in it and other magazines and newspapers arguing for Flag Day.

A small victory came when the first public school children’s celebration of Flag Day was held in Chicago in June of 1894, with over 300,000 children participating. This large recognition of the holiday led to scores of governors and mayors and several US presidents agreeing that Flag Day should be nationally recognized as the birthday of the flag.

On May 30, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14 a day of national observance of the flag to commemorate the adoption of the stars and stripes. Then in 1949, President Harry Truman designated the 14 of June as National Flag Day. Although celebrated across the country today, Flag Day is not a federal holiday.

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