On June 14, we celebrate Flag Day, but that hasn’t always been the case. Flag Day’s first formal observance didn’t take place until 1885—110 years after the United States' first national flag was flown.
1885 was quite a year for the US: the first skyscraper was built in Chicago, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor, and Dr. Pepper was served for the first time. In many ways, America had grown and changed since its inception.
So why did Flag Day finally come to be, years after the country’s origin?
They say that a man follows after his father. If this is also true of holidays, we should look to Bernard Cigrand to learn about Flag Day.
In 1885, Cigrand was working as a grade-school teacher in Wisconsin, using his $40 monthly salary to attend dental school. By all means, he was dedicated to the medical field. But his true love was his country—and the flag that represented it. In June, his job and his passion merged when he held the first formal observance of Flag Day at his school.
From that point forward, he made many efforts to establish a national flag day, ultimately giving 2,188 speeches promoting patriotism and respect for the flag while working tirelessly to establish Flag Day as a national holiday. Cigrand always maintained that Flag Day should be observed on June 14—the same day the US first adopted its stars and stripes in 1777. His dedication and entrepreneurial spirit are fitting traits for the father of Flag Day—a day to remember the things that make the US great.
Cigrand’s efforts were finally rewarded when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day a national holiday more than 30 years later on May 30, 1916.
The American flag has changed over the years, but no matter what version you look at—from the Bennington to the Betsy Ross—it holds special meaning and inspires people like Bernard Cigrand to do great things.
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