Sunday is Flag Day in the United States, an unofficial holiday commemorating the adoption of the American flag 243 years ago by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.
While the day passes without many Americans realizing its significance, some residents proudly display the stars-and-stripes outside their homes.
The U.S. flag has gone through many iterations over the years, with Congress ordering changes in its design up until 1960, including the addition of stars whenever a new state joined the union.
Today’s flag has 13 horizontal stripes, representing the original 13 colonies and 50 stars representing the 50 states.
First U.S. President George Washington described the flag: “We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her. And the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty.”
American tradition held that Pennsylvania seamstress Betsy Ross sewed the first official U.S. flag. Ross often mended the clothes of Washington before he became president. However historians now agree that Congressman Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Philadelphia, was the flag's original designer.
In 1812, the American flag that flew at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland during the War of 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key’s poem-turned anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Flag day was first recognized during World War I when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916 for a nationwide observance. However, it wasn’t until after WWII that Congress passed legislation signed by President Harry Truman in 1949 officially approving a national Flag Day on June 14.
Many Americans do not realize the significance of the day or mark it in any way, likely because June 14 is not an official holiday and people do not have time off from work.