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June 14 was Flag Day. It is one of our less celebrated annual events. Independence Day on July 4 is celebrated with fireworks, parades and as a national holiday, but Flag Day is generally overlooked.

The day has always struggled for recognition.

Even back in 1921, just three years after World War I, there was a lack of enthusiasm for Flag Day. The Wheeling Intelligencer printed these words from a writer:

“Today is Flag Day in West Virginia as well as in other parts of this great country.

It is a pity that there will not be a wider observance of the date. The Elks lodges at some points in West Virginia are planning to observe the day, but there will be many points where Flag Day of 1921 will pass like Flag Days of the past, with only a few flags displayed.

The flag symbolizes the greatest honor and it is to be regretted that the custom of uncovering the head when it passes in parade is not more generally observed in this state. Only a small proportion of the men watching parades in Charleston, Clarksburg and Fairmont in the last year have lifted their hats when the flag passed by.

This in the vast majority of cases was not intentional disrespect, but evidence of the forgetfulness that comes to many people in days of peace.

The salute to the flag is a salute to all the American citizen holds dear and it is a salute to those millions who have died in wars to make this nation free, united and strong. It is a salute to ourselves as citizens, the unforced tribute of free men to the beautiful symbol of our country.

No American flag in parade should fail to receive the civilian’s salute and those who forget should be reminded by those standing nearby. If you do nothing more to observe Flag Day, determine to salute the flag the next time it passes you in parade.”

Even Flag Day’s beginnings were low key. It probably started in 1885, when B.J. Cigrand, a schoolteacher in Wisconsin, planned a “Flag Birthday” observance for his students. He chose June 14 because on that day in 1777 the Continental Congress officially adopted a banner with 13 stars in a blue field and 13 alternating red and white stripes. He continued to promote June 14 as Flag Birthday or now Flag Day.

Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn founded the American Flag Day Association and moved the celebrations beyond Wisconsin. The first time Chicago participated, 300,000 people turned out. The movement slowly caught on and in 1889, George Balch, a New York kindergarten teacher, planned a celebration at his school. New York State Board of Education adopted June 14 as Flag Day, and in 1894 the governor of New York ordered all public buildings to display the flag on that day.

President Woodrow Wilson established the first official national Flag Day in 1916. It was not a national observance until Aug. 3, 1949, when President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress that designated June 14 as National Flag Day.

In a 1914 Flag Day ceremony, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane included this remark, “This morning, the flag whispered to me ‘I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself’.”

(Information from a clipping (unknown date and source) found in the files of Carl Morris, written by Gerald Swick and the website

 Flag Etiquette

Standards of Respect

The Flag Code, which formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. They are:

--The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.

--The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.

--The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard

--The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.

--The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.

--The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag, it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.

When a flag is so worn, it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be retired by burning in a dignified manner.

More information is available at

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