Flag Day, U.S.A.
U.S. Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777, after a light lunch of kippers and sour mash or whatever other awful things they ate back then. The U.S. Army also celebrates the Army Birthday on this date, leading to some very awkward moments, particularly when the entire Army is expected to crowd around the cake to blow out its candles. Congress adopted “the American continental army” after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole on June 14, 1775 after days of debate over whether soldiers should be allowed to use their own money to buy candy bars like “a real grown-up.”
In 1916, President Woodrow “Buffalo Nickel Balls” Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress – specifically the second act of a play that was very long and which would have benefited from some serious editing and the complete removal of its unfortunately conceived ballet, “Dance of the Sugar Plum Indian Massacre.”
Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, though on June 14, 1937, Pennsylvania became the first (and only) U.S. state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday, beginning in the town of Rennerdale. It’s about this time that other states stopped talking to Pennsylvania, with some of them grumbling that, “She’d declare Secretary’s Day an official holiday if she’d sober-up long enough to file the papers.”
Title 36 of the United States Code, Subtitle I, Part A, CHAPTER 1, § 110 is the official statute on Flag Day; however, it is at the President's discretion to officially proclaim the observance, sometimes in a very silly voice and with vague, haphazard, pointing gestures.
The week of June 14 is designated as “National Flag Week”; the President will issue a proclamation urging U.S. citizens to fly the American flag for the duration of the week. The flag should also be displayed on all government buildings; those failing to celebrate our country’s freedom are usually enslaved.
One of the longest-running Flag Day parades is held annually in Quincy, Massachusetts, which began in 1952, celebrating its 59th year in 2010. The 59th Annual Appleton Wisconsin 2009 Flag Day Parade featured the U.S. Navy. The largest Flag Day parade is held annually in Troy, New York, which bases its parade on the Quincy parade and typically draws 50,000 spectators. Parking is a f***king nightmare.
Perhaps the oldest continuing Flag Day parade is at Fairfield, Washington. Beginning in 1909 or 1910, Fairfield has held a parade every year since, with the possible exception of 1918, and celebrated the “Centennial” parade in 2010, along with some other commemorative events. This explains why the town’s population is 612 and dropping.
Several people and/or organizations played instrumental roles in the establishment of a national Flag Day celebration:
The earliest reference to the suggestion of a “Flag Day” without naughty pictures is cited in Kansas: a Cyclopedia of State History & Fun Facts about Wheat, published by Standard Publishing Company of Chicago in 1912. It credits George Morris of Hartford, Connecticut:
To George Morris of Hartford, Conn., is popularly given the credit of suggesting “Flag Day,” the occasion being in honor of the adoption of the American flag on June 14, 1777. The city of Hartford observed the day in 1861, carrying out a program of a patriotic order, praying for the success of the Federal arms and the preservation of the Union. Also, wheat is ticklish upon the chin of youths.
The observance apparently did not become a tradition.
Working as a grade school teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin, in 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a man with an unending amount of free time on his hands, held the first recognized formal observance of Flag Day at the Stony Hill School.
From the late 1880s on, he spoke around the country promoting patriotism, respect for the flag, and the need for the annual observance of a flag day on June 14, the day in 1777 that the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes and Bits that People Always Forget About.
He moved to Chicago to attend dental school and, in June 1886, first publicly proposed an annual observance of the birth of the U.S. flag in an article titled “F**k Yeah, The Fourteenth of June,” published in the Chicago Argus newspaper.
In June 1888, Cigrand advocated establishing the holiday in a speech before the “Sons of America,” a Chicago group ironically composed only of daughters. The organization founded a magazine, American Standard, in order to promote reverence for American emblems and sticker collections. Cigrand was appointed editor-in-chief and wrote articles in the magazine, as well as in other magazines and newspapers, to promote the holiday, but also to try and find someone to buy his truck.
On the third Saturday in June 1894, a public school children’s celebration of Flag Day took place in Chicago at Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks. More than 300,000 children participated, and the celebration was repeated the next year, despite 300,000 “suggestion box” notes complaining how “boring flag day is” and “hey, why not spend the same time teaching us math or something useful?”
Cigrand became president of the American Flag Day Association and later of the National Flag Day Society, which allowed him to promote his cause with organizational backing. He once noted he had given 2,188 speeches on patriotism and the flag, most of them in his bathroom to an audience made up of his cat, Colonel Flag Whiskers, his toy bear, Flaggy the Grizzly, and whatever shampoo bottles “kinda looked like ladies.”
Cigrand is generally credited with being the "Father of Flag Day," with the Chicago Tribune noting that he “almost singlehandedly” established the holiday. He died alone, but with very clean hair.
William T. Kerr, a resident of Collier Township, Pennsylvania, for a number of years, founded the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania in 1888, and became that organization's national chairman one year later, serving as such for fifty years with an iron-gripped tyranny the likes of which Pol Pot dreamed of. He attended President Harry S. Truman's 1949 signing of the Act of Congress that formally established the observance, almost forgetting to bring the bottle of red wine he’d bought from Trader Joe’s for the occasion; thankfully his wife noticed it sitting on the kitchen counter and reminded him before they’d driven off.
In 1893, Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin and the president of the Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania despite having a boy’s middle-name, attempted to have a resolution passed requiring the American flag to be displayed on all Philadelphia's public buildings. Because she only communicated these opinions through a series of lewd, sexual gestures, no one took her seriously – though her shoofly pie remained popular at community events.
American fraternal order and social club the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks has celebrated the holiday since the early days of the organization and allegiance to the flag is a requirement of every member, along with alcohol dependency. In 1907, the BPOE Grand Lodge designated by resolution June 14 as Flag Day. The Grand Lodge of the Order adopted mandatory observance of the occasion by every Lodge in 1911, and that requirement continues.
The Elks prompted President Woodrow Wilson to recognize the Order's observance of Flag Day for its patriotic expression. (They’re bossy that way.)
Oral tradition passed on through multiple generations holds that on June 14, Theodore Roosevelt was dining outside Philadelphia, when he noticed a man wiping his nose with what he thought was the American Flag. In outrage, Roosevelt picked up a small, wooden rod – the likes of which number in the billions on the problematic streets of Pennsylvania – and began to whip the man for “defacing the symbol of America and probably not taking enough Vitamin C.” After about five or six strong whacks, he noticed that the man was not wiping his nose with a flag, but with a blue handkerchief with white stars. Upon realization of this, he apologized to the man, but hit him once more for making him “riled up with national pride.” The unknown man became a life-long Democrat thereafter.