Flag Day in Arlington Out of Fashion?

Flag Day in Arlington Out of Fashion?

Why do we fly the flag on June 14?

It’s a grand old flag.

It’s a grand old flag.

The Mullins did. The Petraeuses did. The Thomases did. They put up flags on Flag Day, June 14, along with a handful of other Arlingtonians seen on a two hour walk through North Arlington. But many people did not. Has Flag Day gone out of fashion? What is flag day anyway? 

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed 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.” They had to do this because up to that point there was no true American flag — people flew a version that was “too British” in that it had a Union Jack in the corner, not stars. 

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson reminded Americans of the original resolution by establishing June 14 as Flag Day. (Wilson has now gone out of fashion so that may be part of the problem.) But Wilson wasn’t the first to have the idea of honoring the flag on June 14. Bernard Cigrand, a small-town Wisconsin teacher, came up with the idea in 1885, to celebrate an annual flag day, nationwide, every June 14. He led his school in the first formal observance of the holiday. Cigrand continued to promote “flag day” for the rest of his life. Harry Truman also officially declared June 14 Flag Day in August 1949. 

Around the time Wilson called for Flag Day, the American flag was a popular subject for American impressionist Childe Hassam, who painted over 30 works featuring the flag, many of which were dated from 1914 to 1917. Whether it was Wilson’s creation of Flag Day, or the war in Europe, the number of flags hanging up and down Fifth Avenue in New York was impressive — and beautiful. These iconic paintings used to be featured in American notebook calendars put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But those too have gone out of fashion.

Men and women returning from World Wars I and II were a major source of “flag pride” in the rest of the 20th century, and in small towns across the US, a flag would come out on June 14, and a new flag would be purchased for Flag Day if the old one was tired looking. 

From about 1980 onwards the flag lapel pin was appropriated by the American right: there is even a flag lapel pin in combination with an automatic weapon emblem. 

The colors in the flag matter: red for hardiness and valor, white for purity and innocence, blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Hanging the flag on June 14th can affirm that unity, belief in the ideals of the constitution, and that justice, valor, and purity remain a priority for most Americans — and have not gone out of fashion.