Honoring the flag

Scouts from Manchester and Hampstead recite the Pledge of Alligance. (File Photo by Phil Grout / 2011, Patuxent Publishing / May 26, 2011)

Friday, June 14, is Flag Day. It's a day in which we not only honor the flag of our nation, but also the freedom and the way of life it symbolizes.

It was the Second Continental Congress, which sat in session from May 10, 1775 to March 1, 1781, which passed the Flag Act of 1777 on June 14, 1777, during the American Revolution.

A representative from New Jersey, Francis Hopkinson, is accepted by history as having been the designer of the first flag. He was a poet and an artist who began serving on the Continental Navy Board in November 1776. It was in this capacity that Congressman Hopkinson began work on "admiralty colors."

Historical accounts note that Hopkinson billed the Board of Admiralty in 1780 for his work on the flag of the United States of America, as well as several ornaments, devices, papers and other things related to government, including the Great Seal of the United States.


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As of 1780, Hopkinson had received nothing for this work, and according to several published accounts (including usflag.org) he submitted a bill and asked if a "Quarter Cask of the public wine" might be suitable reward for his work.

A congressional committee was appointed to investigate Hopkinson's request for payment. It summoned witnesses and took testimony. On Aug. 23, 1781, Congress passed a resolution that the congressman — who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, by the way — be paid.

Ultimately, Hopkinson was never paid — not in gold nor grapes. It wasn't because it was disputed that he did the work, but because his political adversaries prevailed in denying him payment. (Perhaps sequestration kicked in.)

But just like the wine he never got, Old Glory has improved with age. According to the Library of Congress, "To date, there have been 27 official versions of the flag, but the arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers' preferences until 1912, when President (William Howard) Taft standardized the then-new flag's 48 stars into six rows of eight.

"The current version of the flag dates to July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959," the Library of Congress states.

The flag has remained a constant reminder of the sacrifices that have been made to maintain the freedoms, liberties and way of life of this great noble experiment we call the United States of America.

When we display the flag, we express our gratitude to the men and women who have gone before us and fought to ensure that the many blessings and freedoms we enjoy will continue for many generations to come.

By flying the flag, we honor our men and woman in uniform who carry the flag in harm's way across the globe and pay humble tribute to this enduring American symbol and celebrate the hope and ideals that it embodies.

When he is not immersed in studying the history and trivia of the U.S. flag, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.