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Flag Day - A History of Celebration

June 14 - Flag Day - a hardly recognized holiday today. Although we all know that government offices are closed, but beyond that, why do we celebrate Flag Day. June 14 was chosen because on June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes for the flag of the United States. However, it was not for another 100 years until the first national observance of Flag Day took place.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation for the national observance of Flag Day to be held on the 14th day of June. It was not until the House Joint Resolution 170, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on August 3, 1949, which made Flag Day a permanent observance.

Local observances occurred on Flag Day as well. The Indiana Weekly Messenger reported on June 12, 1895, “Friday next is Flag Day. This is a day set apart for the display of the American flag and is observed by all patriotic orders and patriotic citizens generally. Every person who is the possessor of a flag, or who can purchase one, should fling it to the breeze on that day.”

Centennial Human Flag in front of the Old Courthouse

The Indiana Democrat ran a piece on June 8, 1898: “Tuesday next, June 14, is Flag day. Let “Old Glory” wave from every house on that day. June 14 was the day “Old Glory” was born and in these later times when we celebrate the anniversary of the most trivial affairs, it is but right to celebrate that which symbolizes love, loyalty, patriotism, and Americanism. ‘Long may it wave.’”

However, Flag Day was not always so enthusiastically celebrated, the Indiana Evening Gazette reported on June 14, 1905, “Today is the 128th birthday of the adoption of the stars and stripes as the American flag. A few flags were displayed in Indiana, but they were very few. The people seemed to have forgotten that this is Flag Day.”

That same day the Indiana Weekly Messenger reported, “This is flag day and in order to teach patriotism and what the flag of our country means that the boys and girls soon to become citizens may appreciate the benefits of living under its protection, “Old Glory,” is waving in the breeze today. “One heart, one hope, one destiny, one flag from seas to sea.” Long may it wave.”

On June 2, 1934, the Indiana Evening Gazette reported on various addresses given about Flag Day. R.E. Penfield, Commander of the American Legion Post. Penfield called for a “mass display of our Flag” as a way to “prove that the great mass of American people are still firm believers in our Nation, our Constitution and our Flag.” He went on to quote an excerpt from President Wilson’s proclamation: “Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation, ‘one and inseparable,’ from which every thought that is unworthy of our forefathers’ first vows of independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded, and in which we shall stand with united hearts for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself, a nation signally distinguished among all the nations of mankind for its clear, individual conception alike of its duties and its privileges, its obligations, and its rights.”

The Ladies’ Auxiliary to VFW Indiana County Post No. 1989, also observed Flag Day in 1934, they quoted Henry Ward Beecher in his address to one of the regiments during the Civil War: “Our flag carries American ideas, American history and American feelings. Beginning with the Colonies and coming down to our time, in its sacred heraldry, in its glorious insignia, it has gathered and stored this supreme idea: Divine Right of Liberty in Man. Every color means Liberty; every thread means liberty; every form of star and beam or stripe of light means Liberty - not lawlessness, not license; but organized, institutional Liberty - Liberty through law and laws for Liberty. It is not a painted rag. It is a national history. It is the Constitution. It is the Government. It is the free people that stand in the Government on the Constitution.”

This Flag Day, let us remember the history behind the day. It is not merely a day where offices and businesses are closed, but a day to recognize and honor the adoption of our Nation’s Flag and reflect on the history that has brought us to this point in history.

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