Thursday, June 5, 2014

Flag Day

Sumner Washington will be joining a nationwide effort to mark the historic anniversary of the flag `raising’s 200th anniversary” reads the heading..  According to the news article in the June 2, 2014 issue of The News Tribune Sumner is one of the only communities on the West Coast that has so far signed up to participate and will hold their celebration at the gazebo in the center of their Reuben A. Knoblauch Heritage Park just off Main Street at 1 PM on June 14th.  Anyone with enthusiasm is welcome.

The article continues to state “Other participants include The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Park Service and the City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, according to the “Raise it Up!” website.”

For those who have forgotten, Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777 although it wasn't until 1916 when a president (Woodrow Wilson) issued a proclamation officially establishing June 14 as flag day.  It took another 33 years before, In August 1949, Congress passed an Act establishing a national flag day, but the Act did not include the day as a federal holiday.

When I was growing up it seemed that no matter where I lived Flag Day was always celebrated with a parade, community picnics, bands, and just about everything you envision as "middle America" celebrations.  It didn't matter whether we were in Colorado, Arizona or Delaware - there were celebrations.  So you might be surprised to discover that Flag Day is not a state or federal holiday.  Gig Harbor, Washington has a celebration on the first weekend in June originally started in 1970s as Harbor Holidays and a community get-together and celebration, and now renamed the "Maritime Gig".   But no specific Flag Day celebration.  Although Gig Harbor residents do honor the flag as you notice when you drive along its streets - many homes display the flag all summer and the City of Gig Harbor has flags mounted along the main streets in and around the downtown waterfront.  Don’t get me wrong though, I’m certain other areas throughout the community are also displaying the flag.

According to Wikipedia, possibly the oldest longest continuing Flag Day parade is held in Fairfield, Spokane county, Washington.  Fairfield was founded in 1888 when Mr. E. H Morrison named the community for his wife’s hometown.  The population was estimated at 608 for the year 2013; and is comprised of 0.62 square miles.  Wikipedia's entry goes on to state that Fairfield's parade started in 1909 or 1910 and has held the parade every year with the possible exception of 1981.  The parade is still held today and is followed by all day activities, food and a beer garden.  

But prior to that George Morris of Hartford Connecticut is credited with having the first flag day celebration in 1861 although it did not become an annual tradition.

The next person known for being instrumental in establishing a national flag day was Bernard J. GiGrand.  1885 Mr. GiGrand, an elementary school teacher at Stony Hill School in Waubeka, Wisconsin, held the first recognized formal observation of Flag Day.  Mr. GiGrand spent most of the 1880s promoting patriotism and respect for the flag of the United States which was original adopted by the Continental Congress on that day back in 1777 - June 14th.  He felt the the citizens of the United States needed to observe the day the Flag was adopted and the Flag itself.

Mr. GiGrand spent the majority of his life promoting the holiday, and as the Chicago Tribune noting in one of their papers. that “he almost singlehandedly” established Flag Day.

He had moved to Chicago in 1886 at age 15 to attend dental school and while there published an article “The Fourteenth of June” in the old Chicago Argus proposing an annual observation of Flag Day.    He was 20 years old at the time.  During the years that followed Mr. GiGrand continued to publish articles and books regarding recognizing the flag and the meaning behind the recognition of the flag.   As a contributing editor of the Encyclopedia Americana he wrote “The Recognition and Meaning of Flag Day”, as well as a pamphlet on “Laws and Customs Regulating the use of the Flag of the United States”.

Mr. GiGrand continued his advocacy until his death caused by a sudden heart attack on May 16, 1932.  

Other men and women also were involved in the struggle for the observation of a National Flag Day but Mr. CiGrand stands out as the individual who worked the hardest and longest for this day of national recognition.  

President Harry S. Truman signed legislation in August 1949 recognizing June 14th as Flag Day.  And, surprisingly, on June 14, 2004, the United States Congress voted unanimously on HR662 that Flag Day originated in Ozaukee County, Waubeka, Wisconsin - 60 years after HS Truman signed the legislation for establishment of a National Flag Day as stated in Title 36 of the US Code, Subtitle I, Part A, Chapter 1, 110.

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