What’s Flag Day?

Flag Day History

The Stars and Stripes. The Red, White and Blue. The Star-Spangled Banner. Old Glory. White stars on a blue background, thirteen white and red stripes fluttering in the wind.

But where did Flag Day come from? There are several stories about from where Flag Day originated, opens a new window. In 1916, 1927 and 1942, presidential proclamations were issued calling for June 14 to to be declared Flag Day, but it was't until 1949 that Harry S. Truman signed Flag Day into law, opens a new window

"Whereas it is our custom to observe June 14 each year with ceremonies designed not only to commemorate the birth of our flag but also to rededicate ourselves to the ideals for which it stands; and Whereas this beloved emblem, which flies above all our people of whatever creed or race, signalizes our respect for human rights and the protection such rights are afforded under our form of government."

Fast Flag Facts

  • The thirteen stripes on today's flag represent the thirteen original colonies. White symbolizes purity, red symbolizes valor and blue symbolizes vigilance and justice.
  • It's widely believed that Betsy Ross helped design and made the first American flag, but it's still debated by historians.
  • The nickname "Old Glory" comes from William Driver, a Massachusetts sea captain, whose flag is said to have survived numerous defacement attempts during the American Civil War. 
  • 17-year-old Bob Heft, a student, redesigned his family's 48-star flag and stitched on 50 stars when it seemed that Alaska, and then Hawaii, would achieve statehood. Heft sent the flag to his congressmen who presented the flag to President Eisenhower. On July 4, 1960, Eisenhower and Heft stood together to watch the new 50-star flag raised for the first time.
  • Visit the actual "Star-Spangled Banner" flag, opens a new window at the Smithsonian Museum, the same flag that survived the 25-hour-long shelling of Fort McHenry in Baltimore (during the War of 1812), and the very flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star-Spangled Banner." It's undergoing a decades-long preservation project at the Smithsonian, opens a new window since 1999. 
  • Did you know flying the flag upside down is a sign of distress? So says the Flag Code, opens a new window.
  • Flying an American flag at your house? Etiquette says the flag should be illuminated by sunlight or another light source when on display.
  • Want more facts? Visit PBS.com's "A Capital Fourth", opens a new window to keep learning!