Father of Flag Day

Father of Flag Day

On June 14, 1885 Bernard J. Cigrand was standing at the head of his class, a schoolteacher with a patriotic heart. The historic imagery doesn’t get much more heart warming than this. In a one-room schoolhouse in Waubeka Wisconsin, there stood the 19-year-old Mr. Cigrand.  Intent on teaching the history of the flag, and unbeknownst to him at the time, he led his students to take part in what would become the world’s most recognizable symbol of freedom. The American Flag.


His simple lesson plan inspired his students to write essays about the flag. It was to commemorate the accepted date of our national flag’s birthday, June 14, 1777.


He clearly taught them about how our nation began and how the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress adopted the red, white and blue hand sewn flag. He was so passionate about the importance of a symbol of patriotism would help keep the nation steadfast and strong through the many perils he had already seen and learned about and later taught.


In 1886 he wrote an article for a Chicago newspaper passionately urging that June 14 would be recognized annually as the birthday of the American Flag.


On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.


Perseverance pays off and in 1894 after writing hundreds of articles and giving 2188 patriotic speeches, he would achieve a public school celebration in Chicago. More than 300,000 children attended!  Sparking many more private and state-level celebrations over the next two decades. Gratefully, his momentum didn’t stop there.


With World War 1 in sight on the horizon, President Woodrow Wilson was all too familiar with the waning patriotic sentiment he saw creeping across the nation, and the growing interest in Mr. Cigrand’s flag celebrations.  In an act of patriotic fervor he issued a presidential proclamation to declare June 14, 1916 be the first annual national Flag Day celebration. With these words:

Let us on that day rededicate ourselves,” he wrote, “to the nation, ‘one and inseparable’ from which every thought that is not worthy of our fathers’ first vows in independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded . . ..”


We can only imagine Mr. Cigrand’s pleasure in seeing his exhaustive labor come to fruition. Sadly, he would not live long enough to see his effort come full circle as he passed away in May 16, 1932. Seventeen years later, on August 3, 1949, only 4 years after World War 2 ended, President Harry S. Truman signed a congressional act to designate June 14 to be our nations official celebration of Flag Day. Igniting the patriotic enthusiasm Cigrand worked all his life to achieve.


Although there were others who joined in support of a day of recognition for Flag Day, it was the Chicago Tribune who credited BJ Cigrand with being the “Father of Flag Day” stating the he almost singlehandedly established the holiday.

As we celebrate Flag Day 2019, let’s inspire more teachers and young Americans to take part in patriotic celebrations that unify the nation in need of a new identity with the virtues and the freedoms we hold dear.


American Patriotism leading the way for America; Lighting the way for the world. Happy Flag Day!


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