Flag Day may not get a lot of attention, but it falls every year on June 14th – here are some fun facts about the flag we celebrate on that holiday.
Why do we celebrate Flag Day on June 14th? Because that’s the day the Second Continental Congress approved the official United States flag, in 1777. They had been taking their time making a decision, but were spurred into deciding in part by a Native American named Thomas Greene, who felt he needed the protection of a flag while traveling through hostile territory on official business.
The original version of the American flag featured the same red, white, and blue it does today, but it had thirteen stars and thirteen stripes, to represent each of the original colonies. The stars were arranged in a circle, and added to as more colonies joined the union. At first, more stripes were added too, but they stopped at fifteen stripes and eventually reverted to thirteen stripes. The first and last stripe are always red, not white.
The colors of the flag weren’t chosen just because they look good together – each has a meaning. Red is for courage, white for purity, and blue stands for justice and perseverance.
Betsy Ross is usually credited with designing and sewing the first flag, but there’s actually no solid evidence that she did: her name was never mentioned in association with the flag until 99 years after the fact.
There are several rules of etiquette for displaying the American flag. For one thing, it should only be displayed from sunrise to sunset, but if it is left out at night, it should be illuminated. The places where it is raised around the clock include the White House, Fort McHenry, at customs points of entry, and certain war memorials such as Valley Forge. The flag should never be allowed to touch the ground.
One last place the American flag is constantly being flown: the moon, where no less than six have been planted by the crews of the Apollo missions 11 through 17.