The first celebration of the U.S. Flag’s birthday was held in 1877 on the 100th anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777. However, it is believed that the first annual recognition of the flag’s birthday dates back to 1885 when school teacher, BJ Cigrand, first organized a group of Wisconsin school children to observe June 14 – the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes as the Flag’s Birthday. Cigrand, now known as the ‘Father of Flag Day,’ continued to publicly advocate the observance of June 14 as the flag’s ‘birthday’, or ‘Flag Day’ for years.
When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, the colonists weren’t fighting united under a single flag. Instead, most regiments participating in the war for independence against the British fought under their own flags. In June of 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to create the Continental Army—a unified colonial fighting force—with the hopes of a more organized battle against its colonial oppressors. This led to the creation of what was, essentially, the first “American” flag, the Continental Colors.
For some, this flag, which was comprised of 13 red and white alternating stripes and a Union Jack in the corner, was too similar to that of the British. George Washington soon realized that flying a flag that was even remotely close to the British flag was not a great confidence-builder for the revolutionary effort, so he turned his efforts towards creating a new symbol of freedom for the soon-to-be fledgling nation.
On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress took a break from writing the Articles of Confederation and passed a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white,” and that “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
Over 100 years later, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson marked the anniversary of that decree by officially establishing June 14 as Flag Day. As you celebrate the anniversary of the Stars and Stripes, here are some fast facts about “Old Glory.”