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  • Writer's pictureCathy Hertler

In honor of Flag Day

history of the American flag

What is the history behind Flag Day?

When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, the colonists weren’t fighting united under a single flag. Instead, most regiments participating in the war for independence against the British fought under their own flags. In June of 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to create the Continental Army—a unified colonial fighting force—with the hopes of a more organized battle against its colonial oppressors. This led to the creation of what was, essentially, the first “American” flag, the Continental Colors.

For some, this flag, which was comprised of 13 red and white alternating stripes and a Union Jack in the corner, was too similar to that of the British. George Washington soon realized that flying a flag that was even remotely close to the British flag was not a great confidence-builder for the revolutionary effort, so he turned his efforts towards creating a new symbol of freedom for the soon-to-be fledgling nation.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress took a break from writing the Articles of Confederation and 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.”

Over 100 years later, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson marked the anniversary of that decree by officially establishing June 14 as Flag Day.


Interesting Facts about our American Flag

  • There are still five American flags on the moon, but they are all probably bleached white due to radiation from the sun

  • When two or more flags are flown on the same pole, the American flag must be at the top

  • The flag has been changed 27 times. The final star, for Hawaii, was added in 1960.

  • An American flag should never touch the floor or the ground.

  • There are many places where the flag flies 24/7 but over the last 60 years there have been a number of proclamations being made that mandated a few locations to fly the flag 24 hours a day everyday:

    • Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore, MD

    • Flag House Square, (Mary Pickersgill's "Star Spangled" House) Albemarle and Pratt Streets, Baltimore MD

    • United States Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima), Arlington, VA

    • On the Green of the Town of Lexington, MA

    • The White House, Washington, DC.

    • Washington Monument, Washington, DC (50 flags displayed continuously)

    • Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, PA

    • United States Customs Ports of Entry

Billerica Common Flag

What do the stars, stripes and colors represent?

It is, of course, widely known that the 50 stars represent the 50 states of the Union and the 13 alternating red and white stripes represent the 13 original colonies, however, the colors of the flag also hold important meaning.

  • Red - The color red represents hardiness and valor, as well as courage and readiness to sacrifice. It is also sometimes said to represent the blood shed by those who have fought to protect our freedom and our country.

  • Blue - The color blue signifies justice for all, as well as vigilance and perseverance. A reminder that we must remain watchful and strong.

  • White - The color white stands for purity and innocence. Pure, because we are independent from other countries and hold true to our ideals.

American Flag

Proper Display Of The American Flag

People show their love for America by displaying flags along streets, hanging them from porches, and proudly carrying them in the town parade. Old Glory is everywhere. But did you know there are official rules on properly displaying the U.S. flag? This guide from based on the Federal Flag Code, can help you show respect for the flag:

  1. When: You can display the flag outside from sunrise to sunset. If you want to fly it after dark, it will need to be lit. Don’t fly the flag during bad weather, unless it’s an all-weather flag.

  2. On the porch: The union of the flag–the blue section with white stars–should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff. When the flag is suspended from a rope on a pole extending from a house, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.

  3. On the wall or the window: When the flag is displayed on a flat surface like a wall, the union should be at the top left.

  4. On the street: The flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street. The flag should never touch anything beneath it, so make sure it’s hoisted at the proper height.

  5. At the office: Suspend the flag vertically with the union to the observer’s left upon entering. If the building has more than one main entrance, the flag should be suspended vertically near the center of the corridor or lobby with the union to the north when entrances are to the east and west, or to the east when entrances are to the north and south. If there are entrances in more than two directions, the union should be to the east.

  6. On a vehicle: The staff should be fixed firmly on the right side of the vehicle. Do not drape the flag over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or a boat.

  7. Half-staff: During periods of mourning, it is common to see the flag flying at half-staff. Only presidents can proclaim such periods for a national remembrance. Governors can also declare mourning periods at a local level. In some cases, heads of federal agencies can order the flag flown at half-staff on grounds under their supervision. Traditionally, states and local governments follow the president’s proclamation during a period of national mourning.

Take care of your flag. Store your flag in a well-ventilated area. If it gets wet, make sure it’s completely dry before storing it. If the flag is damaged or worn out, it should be disposed of with dignity. Many American Legions will hold a disposal ceremony on flag day if you need a place to drop of your old flags. This Flag day, show your patriotism by proudly displaying the old Red, White and Blue!


"Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it"- Unknown

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