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June 14th is Flag Day

History of the American Flag

Betsy Ross showing the United States flag to George WashingtonGeneral George Washington first raised the Continental Army flag in 1776, a red-and-white striped flag with the British Union Jack where we now have stars. Several flag designs with 13 stripes were used in 1776 and 1777, until Congress established an official design on June 14, 1777 - now observed as Flag Day.

No records confirm who designed the original Stars and Stripes, but historians believe Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, probably modified the unofficial Continental flag into the design today. In June 1776, George Washington approached Betsy Ross, a seamstress, to make the country's first flag. Legend credits Ross with having sewn the first flag to meet the specifications outlined by Congress, while changing the stars from six points to five to speed her work.

Flag Act of 1777

Passed by the Second Continental Congress in 1777 saying that the flag should be made of 13 stripes, alternating between red and white, and that 13 stars be added representing a new constellation.

Flag Act of 1794

Signed into law by President George Washington in 1794, changed the design of the flag to accommodate the admission of Vermont and Kentucky into the Union. It provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars. This would be the only official flag of the United States not to have 13 stripes.

Flag Act of 1818 Sets Final Form

As other states entered the Union, it became obvious that stripes could not be added continually, so in 1818 Congress reestablished the 13-stripe flag for the original 13 colonies and allowed for additional stars for new states.

First Flag Day Celebration

The first Flag Day observance was held on June 14th, 1885. Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19-year-old teacher at Stony Hill School in Waubeka, Wisconsin, placed a flag on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance. Cigrand is considered by many to be the Father of Flag Day. In 1916, the president proclaimed a nationwide observance of Flag Day, but it was not until 1949 that Congress voted for Flag Day to be a permanent holiday.



How 'Old Glory' got its name

The name “Old Glory” was first applied to the U.S. flag by a young sea captain from Salem, Mass. On his 21st birthday, March 17, 1824, Capt. William Driver was presented a the flag by his mother and a group of friends. Driver was delighted with the gift. He exclaimed, “I name her ‘Old Glory.’” Old Glory accompanied the captain on his many voyages.

Captain Driver quit the sea in 1837 and settled in Nashville, Tenn. On patriotic days, he displayed Old Glory from a rope extending from his house to a tree across the street. After Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861, Captain Driver hid Old Glory by sewing the flag inside a comforter. When Union soldiers entered Nashville on February 25, 1862, Driver removed Old Glory from its hiding place, carried the flag to the state capitol building and raised it on the capital flagpole. He is said to have remained on watch all that night to ensure that the flag came to no harm.

Shortly before his death, Driver gave the flag to his daughter. He said to her, “Mary Jane, this is my ship flag, Old Glory. It has been my constant companion. I love it as a mother loves her child. Cherish it as I have cherished it.”

The flag remained in the Driver family until 1922 when it was then sent to the Smithsonian Institution where it is carefully preserved under glass today. By a special act of Congress, Driver's gravesite is one of three places in the United States where a flag may be flown 24 hours a day.



We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty

- George Washington on explaining the reason behind the design on the United States flag



United States Flag Code Etiquette
  • Never allow the flag to touch the ground.
  • Do not fly the flag in bad weather, unless it is an all-weather flag.
  • Raise the flag briskly. Lower it ceremoniously.
  • Never fly the flag upside down except to signal an emergency.
  • When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder.
  • Only the President, Governor, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia can order the U.S. flag lowered to half-staff.
  • When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.