Flag Day, June 14, 2011

In honor of Flag Day, one of the major web home pages (comes standard with Internet Explorer) asked, “Do you know what a vexillologist is?

The simple answer to that question is “no!”  But, many web resources explain that a vexillologist studies flags. Of course, with a big flag shown to the left of the question and Flag Day in the title, readers knew a vexillologist had to do something with flags.

But, why is June 14 recognized as Flag Day?

Two hundred thirty-four years ago on Saturday, June 14, 1777, the members of the Continental Congress agreed upon the flag of the United States.

In the Journals of Congress page 464, their notes included the following:

Resolved, That the flag of the || thirteen || United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

Through the years the fundamental design for the United States flag has remained the same. The flag changed only to add a new star to the constellation when a state was added to the union.

After Hawaii became the 50th state in the Union on August 21, 1959, the last star was added to the flag. But, the changed design with 50 stars became official not quite a year later on July 4, 1960.

Why wait for almost a year to change the flag? There are rules for the flag including when additions can be made.

Title four of the United States Code, section 2 (4 USC §2), states, “On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission.” This rule was added on July 30, 1947, twelve years before the last state joined the Union.

The United States Code includes other rules for the flag as well such as “Time and occasions for display” (4 USC §6) and “Position and manner of display” (4 USC §7).

Several coins contain the flag as part of their design. One, the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games flag bearer $5 gold coin, shows a young athlete carrying the United States flag in the opening (or closing) ceremony of the games.

Five dollars gold coin flag bearer obverse

On the coin’s obverse, the athlete proudly carries the flag as he leads his fellow athletes, waving to their family, friends and fans, into the stadium.

Take a moment today, Flag Day, and this week, Flag Week, to honor Old Glory and remember the freedoms she represents that were made possible by the sacrifices of many people through the 234 years she has flown freely over this great land.