Elizabethton, TN

Flag Day in the Tri-Cities

John M. Dabbs

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There isn't much fan-fare this year in celebrating Flag Day in the Tri-Cities of Northeast Tennessee. As most communities are still feeling their way out of the pandemic and its associated closures, few events have been scheduled around this national day of recognition.

Small towns like Blountville, Bluff City, and Jonesborough may see more action that their larger counterparts - but most of the activity is a bit farther east near the community with a covered bridge. What you will find is in Elizabethton.

Sycamore Shoals State Park

It's been 244 years after the Second Continental Congress completed the adoption of an American flag - June 14, 1777. Sycamore Shoals State Historical Park is sharing the history behind the stars and stripes, our most recognized symbol of the United States of America.

A free program inside the park's Fort Watauga began at 1 p.m. today. The program by museum curator Chad Bogart revealed how the United States flag developed. The program also displays examples of other early American flags used during the War for Independence, and the 18th century.

The history of a nation begins at Sycamore Shoals is many ways. From the regular summer reinactments of the Overmountain Men and their victory trail and other events taking place at Fort Watauga, the park is a good place to learn about how East Tennessee helped develop the fate of what became a great nation.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Not to be outdone, NASA offered this tweet showing how they planted "Old Glory" on the moon during the Ap

History

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The Second Continental Congress adopted the resolution on June 14th, 1777. The resolution came from a report from the committee assigned to suggest the nation's flag design. The resolution states: That the flag of the United States shall be of thirteen stripes of alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white in a blue field, representing the new constellation.

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Painting in oils by Edward Moran, 1898. It depicts the Continental Navy Ship Ranger, commanded by Captain John Paul Jones.Edward Moran/U.S. National Archives

Such a flag was first carried into battle on September 11, 1777 (Battle of the Brandywine). The U.S.S. Ranger became the first vessel under the new flag to be saluted by a foreign navy. On February 14, 1778 under the Captain John Paul Jones the Ranger pulled into a French port, where it was received with respect. The official flag flew over a foreign territory for the first time in 1778 in Nassau, Bahama Islands. Americans captured a British fort.

The first official observance, recognizing the adoption of the flag (Flag Day) were reported from all over since 1777. The first claim was from Hartford, Conneticut. Hartford first celebrated during the summer of 1861. By the late 1800s, schools across the land held programs to commemorate Flag Day, in an effort to Americanize immigrant children. The observance began to be observed in most communities around the country.

New York

The first Flag Day observance (most recognized) comes from New York City. On June 14, 1889, Professor George Bolch, principal of a free kindergarten for the poor of New York City, had his school hold patriotic ceremonies to observe the anniversary of the Flag Day resolution. This initiative attracted attention from the State Department of Education, which arranged to have the day observed in all public schools thereafter.

Soon the state legislature passed a law making it the responsibility of the state superintendent of public schools to ensure that schools hold observances for Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Flag Day. In 1897, the governor of New York ordered the displaying of the flag over all public buildings in the state, an observance considered by some to be the first official recognition of the anniversary of the adoption of the flag outside of schools.

Philadelphia

Another claim comes from Philadelphia. In 1893, the Society of Colonial Dames succeeded in getting a resolution passed to have the flag displayed on all of the city’s public buildings. Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, a direct descendant of Benjamin Franklin and the president of the Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania, that same year tried to get the city to call June 14 Flag Day. Resolutions by women were not granted much notice, however, and it was not until May 7, 1937, that Pennsylvania became the first state to establish the June 14 Flag Day as a legal holiday. Flag Day is a nationwide observance today, but Pennsylvania is the only state that recognizes it as a legal holiday.

Bernard J. Cigrand, a school teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin, reportedly spent years trying to get Congress to declare June 14 as a national holiday. Although his attempts failed, the day was widely observed. “Father of Flag Day” honors have been given to William T. Kerr, who was credited with founding the American Flag Day Association in 1888 while still a schoolboy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Presidential Action

Both Presidents Wilson (1916), and Coolidge (1927), issued proclamations requesting June 14 to be observed as National Flag Day. It finally came to be on August 3, 1949, when the United States Congress approved a National Flag Day observance, when President Harry Truman signed the bill it into law.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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