Today is Flag Day.
It’s a day set aside to commemorate adoption of the nation’s flag, which happened June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.
That resolution called for a flag of 13 stripes, alternating red and white, and “that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
Before then, the fledgling country had no official flag. There were numerous homespun versions, including the well-known design supposedly sewn by Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross.
The website ushistory.org offers the tale Ross is said to have told her children, grandchildren and friends about a secret meeting between her and three members of the Continental Congress: George Washington; Robert Morris, a wealthy landowner; and Col. George Ross, uncle of her late husband, John Ross.
Historians, however, dispute the story crediting her with creation of the flag featuring 13 stripes and a circle of 13 stars. During her lifetime she wasn’t credited as the creator, and stories of her work didn’t appear in public until a century later when her grandson relayed the tale. While it is possible, and there is evidence that Ross did sew flags, the origins still remain cloudy.
Over the years, as new states were added, the number of stars increased. Did you know that the changes didn’t become legal until the Fourth of July following the state’s day of admission? It’s been that way since President James Monroe signed it into law in 1819.
The number of stripes varied in the nation’s early years. In 1795, after Vermont and Kentucky joined the union giving the country 15 states, there was a version of the flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes.
The number of stripes became uniform in 1818, with one for each of the nation’s original 13 Colonies.
How the stars were arranged changed as more states were added, with the version flown today formally adopted in 1959 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for the stars to appear in nine horizontally staggered rows and 11 vertically staggered rows.
The colors also are symbolic, with red for hardiness and valor, white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance, perseverance and justice.
According to USFlag.org, the celebration of our nation’s flag is believed to have started in 1885 when a school teacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin, had students observe the 108th anniversary of the stars and stripes as the flag’s birthday.
In the next few years, other schools and organizations began celebrating as well. Then, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially established the holiday, and it was celebrated in numerous communities nationwide. However, it didn’t become a true national observance until 1949 when President Harry Truman signed an act of Congress designating June 14 as Flag Day.
Over the years, the flags has been known by several nicknames, including Old Glory, The Star-Spangled Banner and The Stars and Stripes.
Regardless of what she is called, she stands for the same principles: freedom, hope and glory.
She has flown proudly as our nation’s soldiers fought around the world to protect those principles, been waved as our nation’s Olympic athletes performed amazing feats, and hoisted to remind of us what it means to be an American.
So today, as you work, run errands or visit with friends and family, take a moment to recognize our nation’s flag.
Long may she wave.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.