Going back to the American Revolution, rebels each fought under their own individual flags (or colonies or local militia). The first real national flag was referred to as the "Grand Union Flag" and first flown on New Year's Day in 1776 to celebrate the Continental Army's formation. It had 13 stripes, of red and white that represented the 13 original colonies. It also had a square with crosses of St. George and St. Andrew to represent Great Britain, and with some was a hope that the colonies could reconcile with England.
The Continental Congress didn't really adopt an official design for a national flag until June 14, 1777, approximately 11 months after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Tradition says that Betsy Ross is credited with making the original 13 stars and 13 stripes banner.
But there are several contradictory theories to this.
Some also claim that John Paul Jones (American Naval Hero) and Francis Hopkinson (one signer of the Declaration of Independence) are attributed to our flags creation. When Kentucky and Vermont were admitted to the Union in 1794, there were 15 stars and stripes. But in 1818 Congress voted to restore the flag to its original 13 stripes and just add a new star for each new state. If they kept adding stripes for states, imagine just how large this flag would be!!
In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii were the 49th and 50th states to be added.
The first Flag Day celebration didn't take place until June 14, 1861, almost 100 years after it's original design was adopted. William T. Kerr ( lived in Pittsburg, PA) is recognized as the person who created Flag Day. He began his efforts as a schoolboy and continued through adulthood. He lobbied government and did everything to bring Flag Day to the American public's attention.
President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed June 14 as "Flag Day" in 1916. President Calvin Coolidge issued a similar proclamation in 1927. But, you know how SLOW the government is? It didn't really officially become a holiday until President Harry Truman said so in 1949.
Pennsylvania is the only state that observes "Flag Day" as a legal holiday. All other states acknowledge its importance by displaying the flags on homes, and public places. Businesses and churches are optional. Other ways "Flag Day" is observed is through flag raising ceremonies, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (written by James B. Upham and Francis Bellamy in 1892), and singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" or other patriotic songs.
Many schools hold programs with the purpose of instilling American pride in the flag and in our country because the flag was so mistreated and disrespected during 1964 to 1975 which was the Viet Nam era when flag-burning was a common expression of resentment to the war.
Some people resent the commercialization of our flag on products. To those who don't and who feel wearing a flag design displays patriotic pride in America, I give a link to the website that sells flag-design items and other government-style items on our Patriotic (main) page towards the center of that page.
It was on June 14, 1777 that the Continental Congress replaced the British symbols of the Grand Union flag with the new design that featured the 13 white stars in a circle on a filed of blue. And, then 13 red and white stripes. This flag is claimed to be made by Philadelphia seamstress, Betsy Ross. But there is no real proof. The stars represented the constellation of the State rising in the West. The blue background stood for the virtues of vigilance, perseverance and justice. The stars were in a circle to represent the the perpetuity of the Union. The 13 stripes stood for the 13 original colonies. The color red symbolized the newly formed country's defiance and daring. The white symbolized purity and liberty.
The American flag is considered a symbol of patriotism and dedication to American ideals. It is one of the oldest national emblems -- even older than Great Britain's Union Jack. The flag's appearance has been changed 26 times throughout history. This was done usually to accommodate adding new states. The Easton Area Public Library has (claims) the very first "Stars and Stripes" predating Betsy Ross' flag and others by a year. They say it was first displayed on July 8, 1776 during a public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Easton. And, that it was made by a group of women from Easton (not one woman!). This flag is 8 feet long and 4 feet wide.
Flag Day is also a time to teach about flag etiquette. The flay should only be allowed to fly after sunrise and taken down before sunset. When it is raised or lowered, it must not touch the ground or the deck of a ship. The flag must be saluted by all that are present. When the flag is placed at half-mast for the dead, it must be hoisted first to the top of the staff, then lowered into place. So the flag goes to the top, then down to half-mast.
When the flag passes by on parade, spectators should stand if they are seated, stop if they are walking and remove hats (if wearing them) giving the flag their full attention. Nothing should ever be placed on the flag or attached to it! And the actual flag should never be used for decoration or advertising purposes.