Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

The origin of Flag Day


On June 14, we celebrate Flag Day. Ever since Sept. 11, 2001 we have seen more American Flags displayed at any time since World War II. Yet, if we asked the average citizen as to how Flag Day came about, he most likely would draw a blank. I thought I would take this opportunity to write this with the help of information from the Northwestern University Alumni Magazine, about how Flag Day came about in hope readers would enjoy learning about something that has long been forgotten.

It all started with Bernard J. Cigrand (1866-1932), the son of Luxembourg immigrants, who, as a 19-year-old teacher, decided on June 14, 1885, to display Old Glory in his one-room classroom in Waubeka, Wis. Waubeka is a small village north of Milwaukee. He asked each of his students to write an essay describing what the flag meant to them. He chose June 14 because it was on June 14, 1777 that the United States Senate approved a bill officially adopting the stars and stripes as our national flag.

After leaving the classroom, Cigrand entered Northwestern University Dental School, where he graduated with the class of 1888. In addition to practicing dentistry, he wrote hundreds of articles and delivered many speeches referring to the flag as an important symbol of national unity. He was persistent in his desire to have a day in which to honor the flag. By 1894, many cities and states had joined Cigrand in honoring the flag on June 14.

In 1916, after more than 30 years of lobbying by Cigrand, President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14 would be designated Flag Day. Wilson said, “the flag has vindicated its right to be honored by all nations of the world and feared by none who do righteousness.” World War I was in full gear in Western Europe and the U.S. was drawing closer to becoming a participant in the war so Wilson’s signing was done at an important time.

Seventy years after Cigrand’s graduation, I graduated from Northwestern University Dental School, but his name was never mentioned in the four years I spent studying there. I knew nothing about him until an article showed up in the alumni publication several years ago. It is evident that many outstanding people’s names are forgotten in time. We need to rekindle the memory of what he had done for his country.

With the pride that has arisen since Sept. 11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we have seen more enthusiasm for the Old Glory that Cigrand loved so much.

Let us join in honoring the flag and Bernard Cigrand, too, by proudly displaying or flag on June 14.


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