She’s a Grand Old Flag! Records About Flag Day, the American Flag in the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

Berryman Cartoon Uncle Sam
To celebrate Flag Day, Cartoonist Clifford Berryman has Uncle Sam both singing and conducting “The Star Spangled Banner” while an enormous American flag waves in the background. (National Archives Identifier 6011566)

June 14 is known as Flag Day, which commemorates the date on which the American flag was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777.  It was determined by a resolution the flag would consist of thirteen stripes, alternating red and white, with a blue field of 13 stars.  President Woodrow Wilson established June 14 as Flag Day and National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress in 1949.

To learn more about Flag Day, one can visit the Stony Hill School in Wisconsin, “the site in which Bernard J. Cigrand, a nineteen-year-old Waubeka-born school teacher, and his students held the first recognized observance of “Flag Birth Day” on June 14, 1885 . . . students turned in assigned essays on the flag to be read on the 108th anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes by the Continental Congress . . . the significance of the observance by Cigrand and his students in 1885, ultimately resulted in the establishment of a national Flag Day.”

“In 1894 in Chicago, Dr. Cigrand was instrumental in organizing the Illinois Corporation, later known as the American Flag Day Association. For many years he was active as its president. The event for which Cigrand worked nearly half a lifetime…” finally happened. On May 30, 1916, President Wilson issued a proclamation which read… ‘I therefore suggest and request that throughout the Nation and, if possible, in every community the 14th day of June be observed as Flag Day.’””

Stony Hill School “is a small, single-story, gable-roofed, one-room schoolhouse of random fieldstone rubble construction. Date of construction is unknown but was c. 1880 or earlier. Across the front is a hip-roofed porch supported by slender squared timbers. At the front gable end is a small semicircular attic window with a brick surround and radiating muntins. The main opening is a pair of 4-panel doors. Side windows have stone lintels and sills and vertical board shutters. The attractiveness of the small schoolhouse is enhanced by its variegated fieldstone walls and its setting on a well-kept ground.”

Flags of the US
Our Flag (National Archives Identifier 95117454)

Additional Flag Day observances have taken place at the Old Post Office and Clock Tower in Washington DC.  “Designed to house the Post Office Department as well as the City Post Office, the building served as the headquarters of every Postmaster General from 1899 to 1934. “It was there in 1908 that the observance of Flag Day was initiated by some employees who met on the second floor balcony overlooking the court and sang homage to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Every Flag Day a complete collection of State flags was displayed from the walls of the central court. Normally on display was the largest (70′ 4″ x 37″) correctly proportioned U.S. Flag in existence. This flag, which hung down nearly 7 stories from the skylighted room, was furled on Flag Day to avoid dwarfing the smaller State flags.”

“The Old Post Office, designed in the tradition of the Romanesque Revival architecture of H.H. Richardson, occupies the entire city block bounded by 11th, 12th, C and D Streets at the juncture of Pennsylvania Avenue. A massive, rectangular structure, it measures approximately 200 feet from east to west and 300 feet from north to south. The 9-story building rises 135 feet to the flat portion of the roof. The tower, located in the center of the north facade, rises to a height of 315 feet above grade.”

The Alamo, Texas
Flag Day in Front of the Alamo at San Antonio, Texas (National Archives Identifier 135804410)

In San Antonio, Texas is the “mission church of San Antonio de Valero, later called the Alamo” (National Archives Identifier 40970901), which is one of the few places in the United States that has flown several other flags in addition to the US flag. “The old stone building, with its flat facade scalloped to a peak above the entrance, is peaceful now, undisturbed within its ivy covered walls. Instead of doomed and valiant men, it shelters mementoes of other governments which in succession flew six flags over Texas.”

“Founded in 1718 under Fray Antonio de Olivares, the Mission San Antonio de Valero was first situated on the east bank of the river. In 1724 it was moved to its present site. . . . Around 1803 the Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, a company of Spanish soldiers from Alamo del Parras, Coahuila, Mexico, arrived at San Antonio and occupied the mission for a number of years during Mexico’s struggle for independence. They called the mission Fort Alamo in honor of their former station, probably giving rise to the popular name of the chapel . . . Early in January 1836, the Texans had information that Santa Anna was leading a large force to invade Texas . . . On February 23, Santa Anna appeared before San Antonio with approximately 5000 men, where only a small garrison of about 145 men under Colonel Travis remained. Travis withdrew into the Alamo and was besieged by Santa Anna’s vastly superior force. The siege began on February 24 . . . The siege lasted thirteen days with the climax occurring on the morning of March 6. Mexican forces stormed the Alamo on all sides, overwhelming the Texans and penetrating into the interior of the fortress . . . Within about one-half-hour all the Texans were killed in the room to room combat and the bodies were burned by order of Santa Anna. Survivors included about fifteen noncombatants, mostly women and children.”

“In 1848 the United States Government renovated the Alamo complex to use as a Quartermaster’s department, rebuilding the gable of the chapel facade and constructing a roof over the old south tower of the convent building. In 1877 Honore Grenet purchased the convent portion adding porticos to the south and west sides to give the appearance of the old arcades of a Spanish styled convent. A second story of wood was placed above the stone walls . . . In 1920, a metal roof was put over the chapel and the woodwork of the side and rear doors and windows was replaced. In 1936, money was appropriated by the State to complete the purchase of the block and work was begun to convert the area to a park . . . Today only the chapel, the restored ruins of two living quarters and the wall along the sidewalk from Houston Street toward the chapel remain of the original mission compound. The other original structures have been obliterated by the erection of modern buildings. A museum and library have been built within the Alamo park compound.”

Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Josephus Daniels. William Jennings Bryan
Franklin D. Roosevelt at a Flag Day Celebration with Woodrow Wilson and Josephus Daniels (National Archives Identifier 196066950)

In Lebanon Connecticut, the War Office is characterized as perhaps the most important single building in Connecticut associated with the Revolutionary War, the War Office originally served Captain Joseph Trumbull (1678 – 1755) as store and office for his extensive mercantile interests. It is a small structure of central chimney plan, 1½ stories, gambrel roof, with two stone fireplaces back to back dividing the interior into two rooms. The facade is not symmetrical, the entry being placed near the left of the structure and a window to the right for each of the rooms. Heavy window frames of early style project considerably beyond the plane of the clapboard wall, with caps of heavy moulding. The window at second floor level on the building end shows a triangular pediment cap similar to those at first floor front of the Jonathan Trumbull house nearby. Since the structure is set fairly high on stone foundation, two stone steps lead to the entrance.”

“Facing the street bordering Lebanon green on the west, and after two movings now located a few hundred feet north of the intersection with the Colchester road, stands a small gambrel-roofed building that is one of the best known and best loved of the historic memorials of Revolutionary days. This was the War Office of Governor Trumbull. It was erected early in the eighteenth century on the north corner of the Colchester road and next to the governor’s house . . . The War Council of Connecticut, or Council of Safety, was first Appointed in May, 1775, by the General Assembly, to assist the governor when Assembly was not in session . . . After the war of the American Revolution, passing into other hands, the building deteriorated and was finally deserted. About 1891 its owner, Mrs. Bethiah H. Wattles, presented it to the Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution. The building was restored to its original war-time appearance by that organization, the present owner, and dedicated on Flag Day, 1891. The lower part is now used as a museum open to visitors, and in the summer months is the meeting place of the present custodians, the Governor Jonathan Trumbull Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

Berryman Cartoon Uncle Sam
Flag Day 1901 (National Archives Identifier 6010370)

In Billings, Montana, the US Post Office and Courthouse, “is a three story structure on a raised basement with flat roof . . . Horizontally rusticated limestone delineates the first story with a molded belt course separating the first story from the undifferentiated dressed limestone of the second and third stories. A balustraded parapet resting atop a projecting cornice terminates the façade . . . Round-arch window bays extending through the second and third stories are aligned over the first floor bays of the central salient . . . The new post office was dedicated on Flag Day, June 14, 1914, and was reported in the Gazette on June 16th. A parade including Billings police, the Billings band, Boy Scouts, and many others preceded the dedication ceremony. Postmaster T.C. Armitage presided and was accompanied by Mayor Leavens, the county commissioners, and various other local dignitaries.”

Statue at Fort McHenry
Lantern Slide of Fort McHenry (National Archives Identifier 183515266)

In Baltimore, Maryland, you can visit the site where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner after seeing the American Flag raised over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  Fort McHenry, constructed between 1794 and 1802 to guard the entrance to Baltimore harbor, is recognized as one of the finest surviving examples of coastal fortifications built during the First American System . . . The site derives preeminent national significance from its pivotal role in the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812, withstanding a 25-hour British naval bombardment on September 13-14, 1814 . . . In 1939, the fort was redesignated as Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the only park in the nation to bear this dual distinction . . . Francis Scott Key, detained off-shore by the British during the 1814 attack on the fort, witnessed the bombardment and was moved to write the poem “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem eventually became the national anthem in 1931.”

soldiers, American flag
Soldiers fold an oversize American flag during the fort’s Flag Day observance (National Archives Identifier 6458498)

Within the records of the National Register there are nearly 250 properties specific to Soldiers and Sailors, including the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, located in Hutchinson, Kansas (National Archives Identifier 123864536), which “is located on a median east of the intersection of Walnut Street and First Avenue in Hutchinson, Kansas. The memorial includes a forty-one foot, Neo-Classically styled, white granite monument and two bronze, Confederate Civil War cannons. The four-sided, tapered granite shaft stands on an irregularly shaped, triple stepped granite base with overall dimensions of six feet high and sixteen feet wide. A nine-foot granite figure of Abraham Lincoln stands on a pedestal atop the shaft. Figures of three soldiers and one sailor stand on pedestals that project at a forty-five degree angle from the base of the structure. The monument maintains a western orientation. The memorial stands at its original location on the final remnants of what once was Lincoln Park, a linear park along First Avenue. The two cannons are placed on the eastern side of the monument, their barrels pointing to the northwest and southwest. The cannons are a bronze Quinby & Robinson / Western Foundry 6-pounder gun #16 and an A.B. Reading cannon, 6-pounder smoothbore #39. The cannon barrels rest on broken wagon chassis instead of historically accurate wooden carriages.”

“The finished memorial, including the two bronze cannons, was dedicated on Flag Day, June 14, 1919. The ceremonies were preceded by a parade including veterans of the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I, the Military Sisterhood, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Daughters of the American Revolution and other organizations. The column marched from Convention Hall north on Walnut Street to the memorial site, where a large crowd including representatives from every town and township in Reno County awaited. Following a number of speeches, the presentation of a tableau by the Military Sisterhood, and recitation of a poem written for the occasion, William Burnett, Reno County Attorney, officially received the monument on behalf of the County.”

George HW Bush, Vietnam Memorial (Wall)
P13732-06A President Bush visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for Flag Day. The President is accompanied by a Boy Scout and a US Park Service Ranger, Washington, DC, 14 Jun 90. Photo Credit: George Bush Presidential Library

While not an official Federal Holiday, Flag Day is marked by Presidents at ceremonies across the country, as President George H. W. Bush did at the Vietnam Memorial in 1980.  Get out there and show off your colors and fly your American flag.

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.

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