This Wednesday is Flag Day, a national holiday that boasts a couple of distinctions. First, unlike some other holidays like Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Presidents Day, it’s never had any name other than Flag Day.
Second, it isn’t an “official” national holiday, meaning it doesn’t call for banks, schools and federal offices to close shop for the day. It’s at the discretion of the president to decide if Flag Day will be observed. If that happens, the observance usually comes in the form of a presidential declaration calling for households and businesses to fly the flag all week.
Having said that, Flag Day has a couple of rock solid facts in its favor, and a bunch of partly foggy claims. The facts: Flag Day was established June 14, 1777, by a declaration of the Second Continental Congress. The proclamation declared that the United States flag would have 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 white stars on a blue field. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14th as National Flag Day. And in August 1949 Congress officially declared Flag Day as a national holiday. Sort of. The discretionary declaration was signed by President Truman.
Here’s the iffy stuff. Waubeka, Wisc., claims Flag Day observances started at Stony Hill School in that town in 1885 at the insistence of school teacher Bernard Sigrand. Fairfield, Wash., claims the oldest continuous Flag Day parade – started in 1909. For some reason, Appleton, Wis., rejects Fairfield’s claim in favor of its own continuous parade since 1950. Quincy, Mass., also ignoring both Fairfield and Waubeka, considers its parade, which started in 1952, to be the longest-running event.
Troy, N.Y., lays claim to the largest celebration, with an average of 50,000 spectators viewing its parade every year. Not to be outdone, Three Oaks, Mich., points with pride to Flag Day being a three-day event.
At the same time, Pennsylvania says it was the first state to declare Flag Day as a state holiday in 1937.
One more fact: In Philadelphia, Flag Day observances are always held at the home of Betsy Ross, the lady who sewed the very first American flag. I guess if anyone has a right to claim Flag Day, it would be Betsy.