The Fourth of July was traditionally celebrated as America's birthday, but the idea of an annual day, specifically celebrating the Flag, is believed to have first originated in 1885. School teacher B. J. Cigrand arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia WI Public School, District 6, to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) as 'Flag Birthday'. In numerous magazines, newspaper articles, and public addresses over the following years, Cigrand continued to enthusiastically advocate the observance of June 14 as Flag Birthday or Flag Day.
On June 14, 1889, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, George Balch, planned ceremonies for the school children to observe Flag Day. This was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution celebrated Flag Day.
Following the suggestion of Colonel J. Granville Leach (historian of the PA Society of the Sons of the Revolution), the PA Society of Colonial Dames of America adopted a resolution on April 25, 1893 requesting the mayor of Philadelphia, and all others in authority and all private citizens, to display the Flag on June 14th. Leach went on to recommend that the day be known as Flag Day, and on that day, school children be assembled for appropriate exercises, with each child being given a small flag.
On May 8th, the Board of Managers of the PA Society of Sons of the Revolution unanimously endorsed the action of the PA Society of Colonial Dames. As a result, Superintendent of Public Schools of Philadelphia Dr. Edward Brooks, directed that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14, 1893 in Independence Square. School children were assembled, each carrying a small flag, and patriotic songs were sung and addresses delivered.
In 1894, the Governor of New York directed the flag be displayed on all public buildings on June 14. With B. J. Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the moving spirits, the IL organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, was organized for promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises. On June 14th, 1894, the first public school children's celebration of Flag Day in Chicago were held in Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks, with more than 300,000 children participating.
Adults participated in patriotic programs as well. Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane, delivered a 1914 Flag Day address in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: "I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself."
Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day - the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 - was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.
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