June 14 isn’t just a day to honor the flag.
While the 1777 resolution establishing a national flag was the impetus for the national holiday known as Flag Day, that date also holds great significance for the U.S. Army. Two years earlier, just weeks after the Battles of Lexington and Concord kicked off the American Revolution, the Congress formally authorized the enlistment of soldiers to fight in what became known as the Continental Army. So this Friday, remember to wish the U.S. Army a happy 238th birthday.
There have been 27 official versions of the American flag, starting with the first one in 1777 which displayed 13 stripes and 13 stars (for the 13 original colonies). When Kentucky and Vermont joined the union, the flag took on two more stars, so that from 1795 to 1818, 15 stripes and 15 stars graced the flag. It was this version of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose “The Star-Spangled Banner,” during the battle at Fort McHenry. Anticipating a crowded field of stripes, lawmakers decided to honor each new state with a star, and leave the stripes at 13, after 1818.
It took more than a century after the creation of America’s flag for anyone to suggest a holiday to honor it. In 1885, a Wisconsin grade school teacher named Bernard Cigrand held what’s believed to be the first recognized Flag Day, which began a lifelong quest to establish a formal holiday. Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation calling for a June 14 commemoration in 1916, but it wasn’t until 1949, 16 years after the death of the Cigrand, the “father of Flag Day,” that Congress passed legislation as a national holiday. It is not, however, a federal holiday. In fact, it’s only an official holiday in any capacity in one state. Perhaps fittingly, it’s Pennsylvania, where the flag was officially created and legend holds (though it’s wholly unsubstantiated) that local seamstress Betsy Ross sewed the original flag.