ON THIS DATE in 1885, nineteen-year-old Wisconsin grade school teacher Bernard Cigrand assigned essays on Old Glory and launched the first-ever Flag Day. Cigrand gathered his students at Stony Hill grade school in Waubeka, Wisconsin, around a 10-inch U.S. flag and explained that the design for the first stars-and-stripes banner had been approved on June 14, 1777, which meant Old Glory had turned 108 that day. Then he had them write essays on the flag.
The U.S. Congress in 2004 declared that our annual flag appreciation day began with Cigrand and his students in 1885. Of course, few would have known about that day if Cigrand hadn’t spent years promoting the concept of a Flag Day. He wrote an essay for a Chicago newspaper that pushed for June 14 as an annual flag celebration day, and gave numerous speeches to that effect.
In 1916, when Cigrand was fifty, President Wilson called for a national observance of Flag Day. In 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress that made every June 14th Flag Day.