By Karen Halfpop, Digital/
As a child, I was fascinated that every year, on my grandparents’ wedding anniversary, everyone on the block flew the American Flag. Of course I thought Grandma and Grandpa were pretty special; obviously the whole neighborhood did, too.
It finally made sense when I learned that their anniversary - June 14 - actually landed on Flag Day, which seemed a more appropriate reason to fly Old Glory.
June 14 marks the adoption of the flag we know as the flag of our country. Here’s how it all came about.
As the colonists went to fight the war for independence against the British, they were not united under a single flag. Most of the regiments had their own flags. In June of 1775, the Second Continuental Congress created the Continental Army, bringing the various groups together to form a more organized show of force. From this, the Continental Colors were created: 13 red and white alternating stripes, and a Union Jack in the corner.
Many thought the flag looked too much like the British flag. How would you feel if you finally got to play for the Kansas City Chiefs but had to wear a San Fransisco 49-ers uniform? Close, but definitely not your team.
George Washington realized this, and a new look was created. On June 14, 1777, the continental congress passed a resolution stating: “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white,” and “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
In 1885, a Wisconsin school teacher named Bernard Cigrand lead his school in the first formal observance of Flag Day. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially established June 14 as Flag Day.
But what about Betsy Ross, you may ask? According to www.history.com, Ross’ role in the design of the first flag is unsubstantiated. “It was not until her grandson William Canby held an 1870 press conference to recount the story that the American public learned of her possible role,” according to the site.
Perhaps my favorite flag story centers around the conundrum faced by flag designers in the 1950s when first, Alaska, and then Hawaii were to be admitted to the union. Bob Heft, a 17-year-old student from Ohio, borrowed his mother’s sewing machine, and set about taking apart the family’s 48-star flag. He stitched 50 stars in a proportional pattern, and handed in his creation to his history teacher for a class project, then sent the flag to his congressman Walter Moeller. Moeller then presented it to President Eisenhower after both states had joined the Union. President Eisenhower selected Heft’s design, and on July 4, 1960 the two stood together as the new 50-star flag was raised for the first time.
Heft’s teacher changed his grade from a B- to an A.