Flag Day at the Fort

 In The Historic Trust

Red for hardiness and valor. White for purity and innocence. Blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The colors of the American flag combine to create the most recognizable symbol for freedom in the world. It has seen the top of Mount Everest and the surface of the moon. It has seen 45 presidents, two world wars, and the salutes of millions of proud soldiers who see the flag as a symbol of everything they fight to protect.

The American Flag was officially commemorated into adoption on June 14, 1777 with the passage of the Flag Resolution by the Second Continental Congress. We are familiar with the story of Betsy Ross sewing a flag at the personal request of George Washington. In reality, the first official U.S. flag was designed by Francis Hopkinson, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. The original American flag had 13 stripes and 13 stars to represent the 13 new states. There were not, however, any guidelines for the arrangement of the stars or for the flag’s dimensions.

The next official flag had 15 stars as well as 15 stripes. Congress intended to add a star and a stripe to the flag each time a new state was admitted. It was this flag that Francis Scott Key watched through the night as it flew above Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Its beauty and refusal to surrender inspired Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner” which would become an embodiment of our nation’s great pride and patriotic passion.

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Grant House ca. 1860, Source Clark County Historical Museum

As each new state has been added to the union, a star has been added to the flag. The number of stripes, however, was returned to the original 13.

On August 3, 1949, President Truman signed a bill calling for the observance of Flag Day each year on June 14th, the anniversary of the passage of the Flag Resolution and the adoption of the American Flag.

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 1958 Dwight Eisenhower approves Robert Heft’s 50-star flag design. Source: Associated Press

The current 50-star flag was designed by Robert G. Heft as a high school project in 1958. His teacher gave him a B- on the project due to its lack of originality. President Eisenhower, however, thought it was a perfect fit. The current flag is the longest-running version in the flag’s history. Heft’s homemade U.S. flag has flown over every state capitol building, as well as 88 U.S. embassies.

Through the years, the City of Vancouver, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and The Historic Trust have recognized Flag Day with the presentation of colors, patriotic songs, student presentations, lessons in flag etiquette, participating in National Pause for the Pledge of Allegiance, and the always popular Clark County Mayors Patriotic Tie Contest.

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Clark County Mayors Patriotic Tie Contest, ca. 2016 Photo Credit: Robert Holcomb

Since it was created, the flag has proudly flown as a symbol of all the values Americans hold dear. It is a symbol of the pride in those who have lost their lives to protect it. It is a reminder that we are one indivisible nation, with liberty and justice for all.

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