Expect to see a few more flags around your neighborhood this weekend. Friday is the patriotic, but often under-appreciated, National Flag Day.
Although the look of the American flag has changed since Congress authorized it as the nation’s official symbol on June 14, 1777, the American flag still stands as a patriotic symbol of freedom, strength, equality and more.
Despite being established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, it wasn’t until President Truman signed an Act of Congress in 1949 that National Flag Day was officially recognized as a day of observance.
Every year since then, the president issues a proclamation encouraging U.S. citizens to fly the American flag during National Flag Week (the week of June 14) outside their homes and businesses to honor the history and heritage that the flag represents.
“Wherever our American journey has taken us, whether on that unending path to the mountaintop or high above into the reaches of space, Old Glory has followed, reminding us of the rights and responsibilities we share as citizens,” President Obama wrote last week.
Nicknamed “Old Glory,” “Stars and Stripes,” and “Star-Spangled Banner,” the flag has remained a powerful symbol of patriotism and unity since 1777. Here are a few more things you probably didn’t know about National Flag Day or the American flag:
1. It was inspired by a 19-year-old teacher
In 1885, 19-year-old school teacher Bernard CiGrand asked his students to write essays about what the flag meant to them to commemorate the “flag’s birthday” in Waubeka, Wisconsin.
Since that day, CiGrand dedicated himself to inspire all Americans to honor and celebrate the majesty of the American flag. He authored hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles advocating for the official observance of National Flag Day.
2. It's also the birthday of the U.S. Army
In 1775, the rebellious colonies did not possess a formal army after the American Revolution broke out.
Before the “army” confronted the British troops near Boston, Congress voted to “adopt” the Boston troops on June 14, at John Adam’s request. Congress also decided to form a committee “to bring in a draft of rules and regulations for the government of the Army” on the same day.
3. There have been 27 official versions of the flag since 1777
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress proposed that the United States shall have a national flag instead of the British Union Jack stating, “Resolved that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
Since then, there have been 27 versions of the flag as new states’ stars were added on July 4 after their admission to the Union. The current version dates back to July 4, 1960 when Hawaii became the 50th state.
4. The current version of the flag was inspired by a high school student
The current 50-star version of the American flag was designed by 17-year-old high school student Robert G. Heft in Lancaster, Ohio in 1958.
With the idea that Alaska and Hawaii would one day become states, Heft designed a 50-star flag for a history project using his mother’s sewing machine.
After spending 12 hours applying his new design of 100 hand-cut stars on each side of an old 48-star flag’s blue canton, his teacher gave him a “B-” for the project. He did, however, promise to change the grade if it was accepted by Congress.
President Eisenhower made a personal phone call to Heft after selecting his proposed design out of 1,500 submissions.
Heft’s teacher later gave him an “A.”
5. There are quite a few rules when it comes to the flag
Flag Day seems pretty self-explanatory. When June 14 comes along, put your flag out on the porch. There are, however, a few rules to properly display and honor the flag.
As per the flag code, “the flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source” during the hours of darkness. When the flag is lowered, “no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms.”
6. Every bit symbolizes something
The current version of the flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, seven red and six white, to represent the original 13 colonies.
The stars represent the 50 states of the union.
Each color of the flag also symbolize something as well: Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
7. The oldest Flag Day parade goes to...
In 1949, the Appleton Elks Club, many of whom were WWII veterans, decided to honor the U.S. Flag with a community parade in Appleton, Wisc.
President Truman officially recognized June 14 as National Flag Day that same year. The first Flag Day Parade was held in Appleton in 1950 making it the oldest Flag Day parade in the nation.