Flag Day Unit Study: History Facts & More!
Flag Day began as a way to honor one of our nation’s iconic symbols: the American Flag. Unlike many of our other holidays, this one isn’t meant to celebrate or honor any individual people. Instead, it’s truly about the flag alone. This summer, take some time to learn flag day facts and why we celebrate this important piece of our history! Check out this post for fun Flag Day activities for kids by grade level.
Timeline of Events Leading Up to Flag Day
- 1776 – Betsy Ross commissioned to create the American flag, according to legend
- July 4, 1776 – Ratification and signing of the Declaration of Independence
- June 14, 1777 – Flag resolution is passed by Second Continental Congress
- August 1, 1779 – Francis Scott Key (author of “The Star-Spangled Banner”) was born
- 1795 – The American flag adopted two new stripes and stars (the “15-star, 15-stripe flag”)
- September 1806 – First “Stars and Stripes” (original name of the flag) raised in Kansas by a Pawnee Indian Chief
- June 14, 1885 – First “Flag Birthday”/Flag Day celebration arranged
- June 14, 1889-1891 – The first Flag Day celebrations took place each year on this day.
- 1916 – June 14th was declared National Flag Day by President Woodrow Wilson.
- August 3, 1949 – An Act of Congress signed by President Truman made Flag Day official.
Flag Day History
On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a flag resolution. This resolution came less than a year after some say Betsy Ross was commissioned to create the flag. It stated the flag should have 13 stripes – alternating red and white stripes – and should have 13 stars, specifically white in a blue field and arranged like a constellation. It would be approximately 100 years before the first Flag Day was actually celebrated.
Traditionally, July 4th was celebrated as America’s birthday. However, the idea of setting aside a day of history specifically to celebrate and honor the nation’s flag is said to have originated in 1885. A schoolteacher in Wisconsin named BJ Cigrand arranged for June 14th to be the “Flag Birthday.” Over the next several years, numerous magazines and newspaper articles proclaimed June 14th as “Flag Birthday” or “Flag Day.”
Flag Day celebrations erupted in the years that followed. In 1889 on June 14th, George Balch planned ceremonies for the children in his school. Later, this idea of celebrating Flag Day was adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On Flag Day of 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia hosted a Flag Day celebration. The following year, in 1891, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution also held a Flag Day celebration.
While groups continued celebrating Flag Day and sharing facts with people, other groups spent years trying to convince Congress to make Flag Day an official holiday. Finally, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14th as National Flag Day. This proclamation became official in 1949 through an Act of Congress.
American Flag Facts
While learning as much as you can about the flag, you can add these facts of trivia to your toolbox! Quiz your friends or just add a “facts” section to your history notebook and lapbook.
- Francis Hopkinson designed a flag similar to the flag adopted on June 14, 1777, except that his had 6-point stars. Some historians believe that he was the actual creator of the first flag.
- It’s possible that John Adams suggested the first design which had stars in a circular pattern.
- On June 14, 1777, Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the American flag.
- Although the country added a new stripe and star as each new state joined the Union, they reverted back to 13 stars and stripes representing the 13 original colonies. Since 1818, it was decided that the flag would have one star for each state and would go back to the original 13 stripes. Today, our flag has 50 stars (one for each state) and 13 stripes.
- The first Flag Day observance took place on June 14, 1885.
- Federal flag laws and regulations state that if a flag passes by, you’re supposed to observe it with your right hand over your heart. Otherwise, you’re technically breaking the law!
- There’s really no evidence (no receipt, bill, diary entry or other) indicating that Betsy Ross truly created the flag! It’s highly possible she did, it’s just that there’s no real evidence of this.
American Flag Facts for Kids
These are all interesting facts, but is there anything about Flag Day that might specifically interest kids? You bet!
- The colors of the flag have a special meaning, too. Red stands for hardiness, white stands for purity or innocence, and blue represents justice.
- When a flag cannot be used or repaired anymore, it has to be destroyed in a dignified way – such as burning – and cannot simply be thrown in the trash.
- If a flag gets dirty, it can be washed and dry cleaned.
- So far, there have been 27 official versions of the American flag.
- The law states that as long as the weather is nice the flag should be raised from sunrise to sunset. At particularly patriotic times, it can be flown 24 hours a day as long as it’s properly illuminated at night.
Why Do We Celebrate Flag Day?
Today, Americans celebrate Flag Day on June 14th of each year. As history tells us, this is the day the nation adopted the American flag thanks to the Second Continental Congress’s resolution. Interestingly, this day holds another special meaning to Americans: it’s also the Army’s birthday (June 14, 1775).
While Flag Day is not a federal holiday, it is a national one. In fact, it’s a state holiday in New York and Pennsylvania. It’s been a tradition to hold and attend Flag Day parades across the nation. Just like President Wilson, other presidents have issued proclamations during National Flag Week. For instance, in 2016, President Obama called for federal government buildings and all Americans to wave or display an American flag.
Flag Day Worksheets
Looking for fun worksheets to add to your Flag Day unit study? Look what we’ve pulled together for you!