History of Our Flag
WTC Tragedy: September
Reprint of Editorial By
Assemblywoman Rose Marie Heck
"Old Glory," "The
Stars and Stripes," "The Star-Spangled Banner." Our flag has been known by
many names, but whatever it is called, the sighting never fails to bring a lump in the
throat and a swelling in the heart of every true American.
Congress enacted its Flag Resolution of 1777 on June 14 of that year, calling for the
establishment of a national banner.
The celebration of a day in honor of our flag traces its beginnings to a New York
schoolteacher who believed it was important to foster a strong feeling of patriotism in
the hearts and minds of his kindergarten pupils. In 1889, he chose June 14, in honor of
the Congressional Flag Resolution of 1777, as a day of ceremony and celebration. Patriotic
songs were sung, orations in honor of our flag were given and each child was presented
with a small American flag of his or her own.
A day to honor our flag is uniquely American. If Flag Day didnt already exist, we
would surely reinvent it. We Americans love our flag!
Throughout the years, the idea of celebrating Old Glory on June 14 began to spread. Flag
Day festivities always have been encouraged by groups of Revolutionary War descendants and
others as an important part of every childs education. Now Flag Day is celebrated by
Americans of all ages in parks and school yards around the nation. New Jersey has several
connections to the flag. We can claim that it was a New Jersey signer of the Declaration
of Independence who designed the flag. Francis Hopkinson, a New Jersey delegate to the
Continental Congress is on record as submitting a bill of $2,700 to Congress for
"currency designs, design for the Great Seal of the U.S., a treasury seal, a design
for the flag."
Although Hopkinson might have designed the flag, George Washington is credited with
establishing it as the symbol of national character.
Washington was the first to note: "The white stripes represent the purity and
serenity of the nation, while the red stripes represent the blood spilled by Americans who
made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. The white stars symbolize the purity, liberty and
freedom within the nation. There is one for each state in the union. The royal blue field
stands for freedom and justice. The 13 stripes remind us of the uniting forever of the
separate colonies into one nation.
A former New Jersey governor, Woodrow Wilson, established Flag Day by Presidential
Proclamation while serving in the White House in 1916. It was only in 1949 that President
Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 as National Flag Day.
What makes this celebration so uniquely American? Unlike other countries, Americans see
their flag as the symbol of their country and all they hold dear.
Other nations pay homage to kings, presidents, prime ministers or religious figureheads.
Americans pledge their loyalty to their flag. Millions of schoolchildren recite the Pledge
of Allegiance every morning. In the State House in Trenton, all Assembly members stand
united on the chamber floor, face the flag, and recite the same pledge before every voting
Our national anthem is in praise of our flag. Our "Star-Spangled Banner" was a
real symbol of American independence and defiance despite overwhelming, superior enemy
forces attacking Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. We still honor
that very same flag, with its "broad stripes and bright stars," now being
carefully restored at the Smithsonian Institute.
Throughout history, at every historic and uniquely American moment, it seems our flag was
close at hand: with Teddy Roosevelts Rough Riders on San Juan Hill; gallantly placed
by U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima; flying as a beacon of hope and freedom at the edge of the
Berlin Wall at Check Point Charlie; with astronauts saluting it on the surface of the
moon. The Stars and Stripes has always represented American ideals of basic freedom for
the common man.
On Flag Day, take special pride in our national banner. It is more than a beautiful piece
of cloth; it is the fabric of our country, its hopes, its ideals, its past and its future.
It is America. It is our flag. ###