Flag Day

12 June 2024

June 14 is a holiday that celebrates the adoption of the United States flag.  Its design is credited to Francis Hopkinson with Betsy Ross (great niece to George Washington) for the five-pointed star.  According to lore, it was also her suggestion to place the stars in a circle.  Mr. Hopkins’ original design had six-pointed stars and the original Flag Act of 1777 was quite vague and many interpretations were flown.

In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson established June 14 as Flag Day and then 1927 President Calvin Coolidge did the same.  On August 3, 1949 President Harry Truman signed it into law.  This is not an official federal holiday but an observance.  Some states have declared this as a holiday, but that is not at the national level.

It was resolved that it be thirteen stripes alternating red and white, with thirteen stars on a field of blue to represent the “new constellation”.  The colors of red, white, and blue, were merely holdovers from the British flag.  However, President Ronald Reagan interpreted them as red for courage and readiness to sacrifice; white for pure intentions and high ideals; and blue for vigilance and justice.

The flag was first carried into battle September 11, 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine.

Stripes – There are seven red stripes alternating with 6 white stripes, beginning and ending with red.  Each is of equal width and are horizontal.

Stars – As mentioned, the stars were credited with Betsy Ross and were thought to signify the new nation as a new constellation.  As additional states were added to the union, the arrangement changed accordingly.  Prior to its use in our flag, the five-pointed star was very rare in the European crests of royalty or other heraldry symbols.


New York State Flag

Have you ever really looked at the state flag?

The first thing that strikes you is the bright blue background.

At the top is an eagle with its wings spread on top of a globe of our world.  These sit on top of a shield.

On either side of the shield in the center we have two women, goddesses, actually.

On the left is Lady Liberty, but not exactly like the statue in the harbor.  In this case Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty, holds a staff or spear in her right hand and her left rests on the shield.  She is wearing a Phrygian cap.  This headgear was given to Roman slaves after they were freed and represents emancipation and liberty.  Her left foot is standing on a crown depicting rejection of the British monarchy.

On the right of the shield is Lady Justice.  This depiction is based on the Greek goddess Themis, regarded for her regard for order, law, and customs; and the Roman goddess Justicia, known for her justice.  Traditionally she is blindfolded to indicate that justice should be unbiased and not influenced by the physical attributes or any outside factors.  She holds a sword in her right hand, a symbol of authority, and represents the idea that justice should be swift and final.  In her left hand is a set of scales, thought to mean weighing value and substance of the evidence and arguments and then finally tipping in the favor of one side or the other.

Flag, day, june, holiday

In the center is a shield with a gold border.  Inside the shield are two boats on the water (probably the Hudson), a larger ship with a mast and a smaller sloop.  These are to give homage to the foreign and domestic commerce, which was primarily conducted by sea at the time the flag was designed.

In the back is the sun either rising or setting over a mountain, probably the Adirondacks.  Jonas Bronck who was a landowner in what is now the Bronx had a coat of arms with a rising sun.  Also, the Duke of York, namesake for the state and colonial ruler, used the sun as a symbol of his lineage in the dukes of York.

Finally at the bottom of the shield is a field of grass.

Below all of this is a white banner emblazoned with the word Excelsior.  This translates to “higher” and is the state motto.

The shield or coat of arms was adopted in 1778 but the flag was not officially adopted until 1901.  It went through a couple of tweaks but is essentially the design first adopted during the American Revolution.

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