Regrettably we will never know what colonial patriot stood before the Continental Congress June 14, 1777, and moved for adoption of a resolution: “that the flag of the 13 United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field…”
Approval of the measure 207 years ago marked the birth of the Stars and Stripes as our national emblem. We commemorate this tomorrow – Flag Day 1984.
A few thoughts and historical tid-bits on the eve of the observance:
First, large flags. It was the sight of the shell-torn 42 by 30 foot American Flag still waving over Fort McHenry after a British bombardment the night of Sept. 13, 1814 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Repaired to a reduced size of 29 by 36 feet and mounted on a canvas backing, the faded flag of 15 stars and 15 stripes eventually found its way into the Smithsonian institution. Don’t miss seeing it when you visit Washington. D.C.
The largest flag ever made in Provo, to the best of my knowledge, was a spectacular 50 by 80 foot version sewn by seamstresses of the Brigham Young University Drama Department Costume Shop in 1975. it served as a backdrop for the Freedom Festival Panorama show in the Marriott Center that year.
(A 104 by 235 foot flag seven stories high and weighing 1600 pounds. was claimed to be the world’s largest when displayed in Detroit in the 1970’s.)
It was in the Bicentennial year of 1976 that Ream’s market in Provo installed a 160-foot pole and began flying giant flags. Other large banners blossomed in the valley. What an inspiration these have provided!
Back to the 15-stripe U. S. Flag such as that which flew over Fort McHenry. This version was adopted in 1795 after Vermont and Kentucky had joined the original 13 colonies as states. It became a collector’s item in 1818 when Congress permanently reduced the stripes to 13 while voting to add a star for each succeeding state.
Utah accounted for the 45th star in 1896. Oklahoma became a state in 1907 and New Mexico and Arizona were added in 1912. The 48-star banner went unchanged for 47 years until 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted. In all, the emblem has been redesigned 25 times.
We sometimes call the flag Old Glory. Whence that name? Capt. William Driver of Salem, Mass., gave it to a flag presented him by a committee of ladies in 1831. The original Old Glory was hoisted on his ship, the Charles Daggett.
The first known Flag Day observance was in Hartford, Conn. in 1861. William P. Kerr founded the American Flag Day Association in 1888 to promote recognition of the emblem’s birthday. Such an observance was celebrated for the first time in the public schools June 14, 1893 in Philadelphia.
On Aug. 3, 1949, President Truman signed a Congress-approved resolution designating June 14 as national Flag Day each year.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks has had a great impact through the years in pioneering the commemoration. Provo Lodge 849, along with all other lodges of the farflung organization, holds annual June 14 services open to the public.
Usually annual public Flag Day programs by the veterans organizations, with the American Legion taking the lead, have drawn audiences from less than 100 to 1,000.
At memorable rites in 1972, the 75-foot flagpole and meditation area contributed by the Elks Lodge and the Veterans Memorial Board were dedicated at the Provo City Center. The Elks and American Legion were prime sponsors of the program. The late Ernest L. Wilkinson, retired BYU president delivered a patriotic address.
Nationally, the stature of Flag Day received a shot in the arm in 1975 when congress passed a joint resolution making it the beginning of an “Honor America” period ending Independence Day.
Americans are urged to fly the flag during the entire 21-day salute. What a boost patriotism would receive – here in Utah Valley and elsewhere – if the number of folk who normally heed this injunction could be multiplied many times!