What is Flag Day and what Alabama city is known as the City of Six Flags?

What is Flag Day and what Alabama city is known as the City of Six Flags?
Woodrow Wilson standing on a flag-bedecked podium on Flag Day in 1915. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Every year, Flag Day is celebrated June 14 to commemorate the adoption of the U.S. flag and to honor its meaning. The flag’s stripes represent the original 13 colonies and the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are also symbolic, with white symbolizing purity, red for valor and blue representing justice.

On June 14, 1777, the British Grand Union Flag, representing loyalty to England and identification of the colonies, was replaced with the first American flag featuring 13 stars and 13 stripes. The Flag Act of 1777 resolved that “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white” and that “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

In 1885, Bernard Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher, held the first formal observance of Flag Day. The following year, he authored “The Fourteenth of June,” where he proposed an annual celebration of the stars and stripes. Known as the “Father of Flag Day,” Cigrand served as president of the American Flag Day Association and the National Flag Day Society.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation for the nationwide observance of Flag Day. Yet, it was not until Aug. 3, 1949, when President Harry Truman signed the national Flag Day Bill, that Flag Day became an official holiday.

In Alabama’s history, many flags have flown over the state. Six of these flags have flown over Mobile, giving the city its nickname, the City of Six Flags. Mobile is a port city, established by the French in 1702, with 1,500 miles of waterways serving other bodies of water including the Gulf of Mexico.

  • 1540: Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer, visited the town of Costa (present-day Cherokee Country) where he planted a Spanish flag before moving on to Coosa (present-day Talladega County).
  • 1702: Fort Louis de la Mobile was established by the French. The flag of Bourbon France became the first flag to fly in Mobile.
  • 1763: The flag of Bourbon France was replaced by the British Empire as a result of Great Britain’s victory in the French and Indian War.
  • 1780: Mobile was captured by Bernardo Galvez during the American Revolution. The Flag of Bourbon Spain replaced that of Great Britain.
  • 1810: The U.S. annexed what are now Mobile and Baldwin counties from Spain. The U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, flew over Alabama.
  • 1861: Alabama seceded from the Union and the Republic of Alabama flag was adopted.
  • 1861: Alabama joined the Confederate States of America and the flag of the Confederacy flew until the end of the Civil War.
  • 1865: Alabama was re-admitted to the Union and the U.S. flag, with 36 stars and 13 stripes, was adopted.
  • 1895: Alabama approved an official state flag, which is still in use today. It features the crimson cross of St. Andrew displayed on a field of white.

According to the Library of Congress, there have been 27 official versions of the U.S. flag. In 1912, President William Howard Taft standardized the arrangement of the stars on the flag. Previously, the star’s arrangement varied with each flag maker. Today’s version of the flag dates back to 1960, after Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959.

To join in the commemoration of Flag Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6022 in Tuscaloosa is hosting a celebration starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 14.  There will be a benefit bike ride, a cookout and an outdoor concert by the Exit 97 Band. The post is at 7001 University Blvd. E. General admission is $15 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. For more information, call the post at 205-553-8040.

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