The History of Flag Day

By Emma Shea

At Hillsdale, where patriotism flies high, it seems like Flag Day is every day. As cities inflamed by ideal passions and uninformed rages are disrespecting our flag and other patriotic sculptures, Hillsdale is seen doing quite the opposite. Not only does Hillsdale remember the brave by educating students in American Heritage and higher-level courses about American involvement in wars, but also teaches the context in which these military ventures were fought. 

During the Revolutionary War, multiple militias and regiments fought with their own various flags, but after the second Continental Congress met in 1755, the iconic red, white, and blue flag was designed to lead the entire Continental Army in battle. This flag was soon thought to be too similar to the British flag, so George Washington resolved that the flag be “13 stripes, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” This constellation grew as more states were admitted to the nation, creating the flag we see today. 

The observation of Flag Day was started in 1885, largely by the patriotic Bernard J. Cigrand and other schoolteachers who used the holiday to teach about the American history. Cigrand is said to have given more than 2,000 speeches across the nation, pushing the national observation of the holiday. The Colonial Dames and the Sons of the American Revolution also played a part in this, eventually leading to the affirmation of the holiday by Woodrow Wilson, later to be granted by an act of Congress in 1949. 

Citizens are encouraged to display the flag, preferably in sunlight, for the week leading up to the holiday. The National Flag Day Foundation holds a ceremony with the raising of the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the National Anthem, and a parade. This being said, it is considered improper to use the flag as apparel, bedding, or drapery in acknowledging the seriousness of the flag and the people who have sacrificed so much to defend it.

As we observe Flag Day in Hillsdale, we see numerous flags billowing in the wind, up and down Hillsdale and College Street. This display of the flag is not only patriotic, but done for a charitable cause. Each flag is put up and taken down five times a year, from Memorial Day to Veterans Day by the local Hillsdale Kiwanis Club, honoring proper flag etiquette. President Doug French says the $35 flags are the biggest source of revenue for Kiwanis, and allows the club to support children in local communities such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Mott’s Children’s Hospital, and Special Advocates for Abuse and Neglect. “I am so pleased with the young people who support and appreciate what we do,” says President Doug French, when reflecting on the charity’s work in Hillsdale. He challenges more alumni to charitably sponsor flags to put up around campus, in hopes of eventually lining all of Hillsdale Street with Kiwanis’ American flags. Those who are interested can contact the local Hillsdale Kiwanis at Not only are these alumni helping children across the world in their sponsorship, but they contribute to the community’s overall aspect of patriotism and remembrance. 

In learning of Flag Day’s history, we get a glimpse of the patriotic and reverent love Americans have for liberty. We see Cigrand and others promoting the remembrance of those who have died for our freedom, ensuring their sacrifice is not forgotten amidst the trials of our nation. We see the serious consideration of etiquette regarding the flag, protecting the honor and appreciation for the American emblem. The flag and what it stands for are not to be taken lightly or forgotten, and those who advocated the holiday fully understood this. We stand indebted to the men and women who have fought to defend our liberty, and those who have recognized the severity of the sacrifice behind the American Flag. 

The importance of their sacrifice is understood by Hillsdale, evident in the restoring of the Civil War statue on campus. We remember the hundreds of Hillsdale student volunteers who fought to expand and defend the personal freedom of all, behind one American flag. I am proud to reflect on this Flag Day and find that my college has revered the flag and all the men and women behind it, defending liberty and pursuing truth with every action, continuing their legacy. 

Emma Shea, ’22, studies biology and religion. She is from Middleville, Michigan, but plans on somehow living in every state with National Parks and herds of sheep/ cows. When she is not running late, she is scheming up road trips with friends or how to get into events for free. 


Published in June 2021