Flag Day, annual observance in the United States to celebrate the national flag. Flag Day is observed on June 14, the anniversary of the official adoption of the American flag by the Continental Congress in 1777. On Flag Day, public buildings and many individuals display the American flag as a gesture of patriotism and national pride. Some schools hold ceremonies and educational programs that promote reverence for the flag.
The first annual celebration of the U.S. flag is believed to have been introduced by Bernard Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher. In 1885 he arranged for his pupils at Stony Hill School in Waubeka, Wisconsin, to celebrate June 14 as “Flag Birthday.” Over the next several years, Cigrand advocated the observance of Flag Day in numerous speeches and magazine articles.
Flag Day celebrations gained in popularity throughout the late 1880s and the 1890s. George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, organized Flag Day ceremonies at his school in 1889, inspiring the New York State Board of Education to adopt Flag Day as an annual holiday. In 1891 Flag Day celebrations were held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the former home of Betsy Ross, the reputed designer of the first American flag. In 1894 the governor of New York ordered that the American flag be displayed at all public buildings in the state on June 14. Thereafter, many state and local governments began observing Flag Day.
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first nationwide Flag Day in 1916. In 1947 President Harry S. Truman signed legislation requesting that National Flag Day be observed annually. Although Flag Day is informally observed throughout the United States, it is a legal holiday only in Pennsylvania.