The Reason We Celebrate Flag Day

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American calendars are crammed with a number of holidays and observations. So many, in fact, that some of the lesser-known dates don't seem to get a lot of recognition. Coming on the heels of Memorial Day, Flag Day (June 14) has relatively few fireworks ignited in its honor. But there is a reason why it's deserving of a day all its own.

In 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution embracing the American flag as a national symbol. Originally consisting of 13 stars and 13 stripes, it evolved into the familiar 50-star pattern we see today. Early on, however, it didn’t make much sense to consider honoring its creation. Originally, the flag wasn't meant to be a symbol of patriotism but a way of identifying people during the American revolution. It was more like a piece of military equipment.

As the meaning behind the flag changed, people began to regard its creation with more reverence. In the 1800s, a number of people decided that the flag's inception was worthy of recognition, creating a groundswell of support that eventually went national. In the early days of the Civil War, textile manufacturers who stood to profit from mass patriotism backed the idea. So did private citizens. In 1861, a Connecticut resident named George Morris pushed for a day of observance, with his hometown of Hartford observing June 14 as a kind of flag birthday. So did Charles Dudley Warner, a nationally known newspaper editor from Hartford, where the textile industry was largest.

In 1885, schoolteacher B.J. Cigrand wrote to newspapers and magazines advocating for the date. Later, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks managed to convince President Woodrow Wilson to issue a formal proclamation for the day in 1916. President Harry Truman signed its observance into law in 1950.

For Truman, the concept of Flag Day was not only to celebrate its creation, but to acknowledge the ideals behind it. Though it's not a federal holiday, it is a time to pay respect to what's become part of American iconography.

[h/t Reader's Digest]