“The eyes of the world being thus on our Country, it is put the more on its good behavior, and under the greater obligation also, to do justice to the Tree of Liberty by an exhibition of the fine fruits we gather from it.” — James Madison letter to James Monroe — 1824
Yesterday (June 14) in 1777, during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution stating that "the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white" and that "the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."
The national flag, which became known as the "stars and stripes," was based on the "Grand Union" flag, a banner carried by the Continental Army in 1776 that also consisted of 13 red and white stripes. According to legend, Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross designed the new canton for the flag, which consisted of a circle of 13 stars and a blue background, at the request of General George Washington. Historians have been unable to conclusively prove or disprove this legend.
With the entrance of new states into the United States after independence, new stripes and stars were added to represent new additions to the Union. In 1818, however, Congress enacted a law stipulating that the 13 original stripes be restored and that only stars be added to represent new states.
On June 14, 1877, the first Flag Day observance was held on the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the American flag. As instructed by Congress, the U.S. flag was flown from all public buildings across the country. In the years after the first Flag Day, several states continued to observe the anniversary, and in 1949 Congress officially designated June 14 as Flag Day, a national day of observance.
The American flag has gone through many changes since it was adopted 237 years ago by the Second Continental Congress. As the adoption of the Stars and Stripes is commemorated this Thursday on Flag Day, find out more about Old Glory’s mysterious origins and its rise to iconic prominence.
In June 1775, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, created a united colonial fighting force known as the Continental Army. Some historians claim that George Washington, the army’s commander-in-chief, ordered that a flag called the Continental Colors be raised the following New Year’s Day during a siege of British-occupied Boston. But David Martucci, past president of the North American Vexillological Association, the world’s largest group dedicated to the study of flags, believes Washington likely raised a British Union Jack instead. The Continental Colors, which contained 13 alternating red and white stripes with a Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner, was only used by the navy and perhaps at forts, according to Martucci. “It was sort of a compromise between the radicals who wanted to see a separate nation and the people who were more conciliatory and wanted to see some accommodation with the crown,” he said.
Either way, Washington realized soon after that it probably wasn’t a good idea to fly a flag resembling that of the enemy. The Second Continental Congress was busy drafting a constitution known as the Articles of Confederation, seeking an alliance with France and supplying the war effort. But on June 14, 1777, it took time from its schedule to pass 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.” To this day, no one knows who designed the flag or why that particular color combination and pattern were chosen. Although legend holds that Betsy Ross made the first American flag in 1776 after being asked to do so by Washington, primary sources backing up that assertion are scarce although Ross’ ancestors claim to have documentary evidence it was Betsy.
Be that as it may during the remainder of the Revolutionary War, the Stars and Stripes was mainly used for naval purposes, but afterwards it took on a national role. By 1794 two new states had been added to the Union, and Congress passed an act declaring that the flag would henceforth contain 15 stripes and 15 stars. More states kept joining, including Tennessee in 1796, Ohio in 1803, Louisiana in 1812, Indiana in 1816 and Mississippi in 1817. Nonetheless, the flag featured 15 stripes and 15 stars until 1818, when Congress passed a new act providing for 13 stripes in honor of the 13 original colonies and one star for each state.
It was almost unheard of for individuals to fly the U.S. flag until the Civil War broke out in 1861, at which time the Stars and Stripes suddenly became a popular symbol in the North. This was the beginning of what some people call the cult of the flag, the almost religious feeling that many Americans have for the red, white and blue. In 1870 the Betsy Ross legend took off when her grandson held a press conference touting her possible role in sewing the first flag, and the earliest flag protection laws appeared not long after. Meanwhile, in 1885, Wisconsin teacher Bernard Cigrand originated the idea for a national flag day.
In 1912, President William Howard Taft signed an executive order that, for the first time, clarified what the flag should look like. Up until then, some flags were oddly proportioned or even had six — or eight-pointed stars. Four years later, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation officially establishing a nationwide observance of Flag Day on June 14, the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777. And in 1949, President Harry Truman signed legislation designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day. Though Flag Day is not a federal holiday, the U.S. government encourages its citizens to display Old Glory outside of their homes and businesses. The tradition is not widely observed, however. To most folks, unfortunately, Flag Day is not on their radar screen today.
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 Flag Day is also celebrated as the birthday of the U.S. Army.
It’s the Textile Color Card Association of the United States (TCCA) that creates the palate of colors used for both private and public institutions, and the U.S. Army that issues a reference guide of acceptable shades to be used in local, state and national flags. So if you’re trying to produce a truly authentic American flag, you’ll need to use the exact shades of white, “Old Glory Red” and “Old Glory Blue,” specified in the guide. Although mass-market flag manufacturers have been known to fudge a bit and use the more-easily processed Pantone Matching Shades of Dark Red (193 C) and Navy Blue (281 C).
While the battle over perceived desecration of the flag remains a hot button issue today, some of the first anti-desecration measures had little to do with flag burning or other destructive measures. In fact, 19th century lawmakers were more concerned with the already rampant use of the flag as a promotional tool by advertisers, which they considered treating the banner with “contempt.” Many of the first statues passed by state and local governments aimed to restrict use of the flag’s image on commercial products. In 1907, the Supreme Court upheld these laws in the case of Halter v. Nebraska, and many of them remain on the books today.
On September 13, 1814 Francis Scott Key penned a poem which was later set to music and in 1931 it became America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." The poem, originally titled "The Defence of Fort McHenry," was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the "Star-Spangled Banner": "And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."
On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of trade disagreements. In August 1814, British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, Capitol Building and Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore.
After one of Key's friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren't allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away.
Key knew that his flag held deep symbolic meaning as he stepped aboard the British flagship of Admiral Alexander Cochrane on September 7, 1814. Cochrane invited Key and Skinner to dine with him. Though he and another British officer agreed to free Dr. Beanes, they wouldn’t let Key, Skinner, or Beanes depart until after the British attacked Baltimore. “Ah, Mr. Skinner, after discussing so freely our preparation and plans, you could hardly expect us to let you go on shore in advance of us?” Cochrane explained.
Surrounded by Union Jacks for days, Key, Skinner, and Beanes stayed with the British fleet. Key was worried about Baltimore. “To make my feelings still more acute, the admiral had intimated his fears that Baltimore must be burned, and I was sure that if taken it would have been given up to plunder. It was filled with women and children.”
Starting on September 13, for more than twenty-four hours, Key watched the British Navy bombard Fort McHenry, which guarded Baltimore’s harbor. The staccato sound of rockets and bombs suddenly stopped the morning of September 14. Gone from the fort was its small storm flag.
Through his spyglass, Key must have held his breath during the silence as he wondered what would happen next. Would the Union Jack or a white flag of surrender appear at the top of Fort McHenry? Relief swept through him as he saw the giant thirty by forty-two foot U.S. flag soar to the top of Fort McHenry. While the men at the fort played Yankee Doodle, Key’s emotions took flight. Phrases such as “O say can you see” and “by the dawn’s early light” pulsed through his heart and pen. By the time he returned to Baltimore two days later, he’d written lyrics for a poem, The Star-Spangled Banner. Key’s genius is that his words were so inspirational, they could be applied to many generations and situations, not only to Fort McHenry and Baltimore. Though he didn’t know it at the time, Key had given the land of the free its anthem for the ages.
The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called "To Anacreon in Heaven" by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as "The Star-Spangled Banner" and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.
Now we come to the part that really makes me angry.
Fox News reported on this Flag Day a desecration of our national flag beyond the pale. This desecration was not done by some Islamic radicals of left-wing nuts burning our flag. It was carried out by our ambassador to Israel — a representative of the U.S. Government and We The People.
“TEL AVIV – The U.S. Embassy broke new ground and raised a few eyebrows by flying the rainbow-colored gay pride flag below the Stars and Stripes in a show of support for the city’s week long Gay Pride week, not to mention a rare example of tolerance in the wider Middle East.
“Proudly flying the colors!" read a dual-language post on the Facebook page of U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro’s office. "For the first time in history, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has raised the Pride flag together with our American flag. We are proud to join with the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo and its residents in celebrating LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual] Pride Week.”
The Tel Aviv embassy gesture to the local gay community is not the first of its kind though. Last month, according to Spanish media reports, the gay pride flag flew over U.S. Ambassador James Costos’ official residence in Madrid, and last September, the flag was unfurled by Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick at the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, in Slovakia.
Reaction from outside of the gay community to the sight of the American flag being accompanied by the rainbow banner was mixed.
“I see that it is OK to put up a gay pride flag over an embassy but not ok for military members to espouse their religious beliefs in God," read a post on the Embassy's page, attributed to Grant Hix Jones. "I am ashamed to see those flags side by side.”
“How is this "gay pride flag" representative of all Americans?" wrote a poster named James Brown. "This flag needs to come down.”
While most people posting messages on the embassy Facebook page expressed various shades of disapproval, on the other side of the debate there were those in favor of hoisting the gay flag, with “Way to go!” and “Proud” being among the posted comments.
An embassy official told FoxNews.com all the responses were appreciated.
“We are glad to see our Facebook page utilized as a forum for free speech,” the official said.
Shapiro announced late last month that the flag would fly above the building, noting "the United States’ strong support for the LGBT community at home and abroad."
I am sick and tired of the LGBT community forcing its beliefs on me. I really don’t care what they have to say or what their behavior is. It’s their business. But for the U.S. Government to sanction it is a travesty against the First Amendment. We are not allowed bibles in government buildings and shows such as the Duck Dynasty are sanctioned for expressing their views on homosexuality. If you fly the symbol of the Tea Party (the Gadsden Flag) you are considered by the Department of Homeland Security to be a potential terrorist. Schools will not permit kids to wear patriotic T-shirts and the Ten Commandments are removed from public buildings. Christian Christmas displays are banned from the public square and even flying Old Glory has been banned by some homeowner’s associations. But our government — in our name can fly the LGBT flag with impunity on a government building.
Not many news associations have covered this event. This is no doubt due to their reluctance to report news that would infuriate their viewers and in some case is new they would rather not report as it might prove to be a negative to their narrative.
The LGBT community can do want they wish in their bedrooms and communities but don’t do it in my name. What’s next — flying the Planned Parenthood banner.