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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Flag Day in US has long, legendary history

Jessie Salisbury

June 14 is Flag Day, a day set aside by Congress to remember and honor our national emblem.

I like to see flags fluttering in the wind, and a solemn flag ceremony and taps played during memorial services is very moving. ...

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June 14 is Flag Day, a day set aside by Congress to remember and honor our national emblem.

I like to see flags fluttering in the wind, and a solemn flag ceremony and taps played during memorial services is very moving.

A look into the history of the day, and the evolution of our flag, proved enlightening. There is a name for that kind of research: “vexillology,” the scientific study of flags and their history.

So here is a short history, snippets of flag lore and legend, that I found in a variety of places.

One June 14, 1777, Congress established our first official flag: 13 alternating red and white stripes with 13 stars on a blue field in the corner where the British Union Jack had been. Provision was made to add a stripe and a star for any new states.

Legend says Betsy Ross made George Washington’s first flag in 1776, but historians have never been able to verify the story.

Washington’s troops first carried the new flag into battle at Brandywine Creek, Md., on Sept. 9, 1777.

Another flag used at that time was the “Don’t Tread on Me” depiction of a coiled rattlesnake.

Vermont and Kentucky joined the Union in 1791 and 1792, giving the flag 15 stripes and stars. Congress then limited the stripes to 13 with a new star for each state. The current flag was officially established in 1818 with 13 stripes, seven red and six white, with a star for each state. At that time, eight more states joined the union.

“The Star Spangled Banner,” which Francis Scott Key watched through the night at Fort McHenry, had 15 stripes.

The last star was added in 1960 with the entrance of Hawaii.

There have been many arrangements of the stars, official and unofficial, over the years – arrangements in lines, circles and star bursts. Congress determined the present arrangement.

The term “Old Glory” is said to have been first used by Capt. William Driver of the brig Charles Daggett.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a Flag Day in 1916. Congress made the day official in 1949.

According to tradition, the origin of Flag Day was in Ozaukee County, Wis., in 1885. According to the story, Bernard Cigrand, a 19-year-old teacher at Stoney Hill School, put a 10-inch flag in a bottle on his desk and asked his students to write essays on the flag and its significance. He then began a lifelong effort to have a day designated in the flag’s honor.

On June 14, 2004, Congress recognized Cigrand as the originator of the day.

On June 14, our towns will be filled with flags. Take a moment to look and remember the past. Consider the meaning of the colors: red for valor and hardiness, white for purity, and blue for reverence, sincerity and justice.

It’s been around for a long time.

Keep up with the past with Another Perspective, which runs every other Sunday in The Telegraph. Jessie Salisbury can be reached at 654-9704 or jessies@tellink.net.