Bernard Cigrand would be proud.
It has been more than a century since he, as a young Wisconsin schoolteacher, began an effort to honor the United States flag.
He wrote countless letters and essays and, after years of work, eventually saw June 14 designated as Flag Day — a time still earmarked to celebrate the flag and all that it signifies.
“This is about recognizing the flag as a symbol of our country and the sacrifices our founders made,” said Mike Tettleton, president and co-owner of Lone Star Banners and Flags in Fort Worth, who is among those wishing more people celebrated Flag Day.
“This is the symbol everyone around the world knows is a symbol of the United States.”
This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the presidential proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day on June 14.
It has been 67 years since Congress established National Flag Day and 239 years since the Continental Congress approved the design of a national flag.
The effort to bring more recognition to the U.S. flag began simply enough.
Cigrand, a young teacher, put a 10-inch American flag in an ink well on his school desk on June 14, 1885, and asked his students to write essays on the meaning of the flag.
Through the years, he wrote articles and essays — as well as letters to elected officials, including several different presidents of the United States — about the need to observe the birth of the flag on June 14.
People began gathering for general public celebrations of the flag, and eventually President Woodrow Wilson formally declared Flag Day an annual, national event.
Wilson’s proclamation asked that Flag Day be marked by “special patriotic exercises” to show “our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people …”
Cigrand, known as the Father of Flag Day, died of a heart attack in 1932, more than a decade before Congress formally established a National Flag Day in 1949.
Honoring the flag
Here’s a look at some ways to honor the U.S. flag.
▪ On a wall: The flag may hang vertically or horizontally but the stars should be at the top of the flag on the observer’s left.
▪ At a home: Flags generally are displayed just from sunrise to sunset. But if the flag remains on display through the night, it should be illuminated. Any flag on display outside during bad weather should be made of all-weather material.
▪ On a street: When the U.S. flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should hang vertically with the stars to the north or the east.
▪ In a group of state flags: The U.S. flag flies at the center and tallest point of a group of state or local flags. No other flag may be larger. And the U.S. flag is always the first to be raised and lowered.
▪ On a casket: The U.S. flag, when covering a casket, should be placed so that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. But the flag shouldn’t stay on the casket as it’s lowered into the grave. And it shouldn’t touch the ground.
The flag “should be displayed on all days,” but especially on these: New Year’s Day, Inauguration Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day (half-staff until noon); Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Constitution Day, Columbus Day, Navy Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Reminder: The flag is only flown upside down as a distress signal.
Buying new flags
Flags may be bought at a variety of stores, including specialty flag stores. But people may also buy flags that have flown over the Texas Capitol (for anywhere from $13.03 for a 3x5 flag to $44.45 for a 6x9 flag) or over the U.S. Capitol (for anywhere from $20 for a 3x5 nylon flag to $33 for a 5x8 cotton flag). Requests for U.S. Capitol flags go to the state’s senators. In Texas, they go to U.S. Sens. John Cornyn or Ted Cruz.
Disposing of flags
Eventually, a flag will become old or tattered and must be retired. The U.S. Flag Code states that when the flag is “no longer a fitting emblem for display, [it] should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
If that’s not what you want to do, Tettleton said anyone may bring (or send) their old flags to Lone Star Banners and Flags, which works with an American Legion Hall that properly disposes of them.
For anyone who burns their retired flag, the flag should be properly folded and placed on a fire big enough to make sure the entire flag is burned. People may stand at “attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection,” according to Veterans of Foreign Wars. “After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished and the ashes buried.”
“The main thing is to do it respectfully,” Tettleton said. “Respect the flag.”
Flags are sold year-round, but sales generally go up during “flag season,” which unofficially runs from Memorial Day to Sept. 11, said Mike Tettleton, president and co-owner of Lone Star Banners and Flags in Fort Worth.
Every year, Lone Star Banners and Flags, formerly known as ABC Flags, usually sells around 40,000 flags, he said.
The most purchased flag is the United States flag, closely followed by the Texas flag, he said.
But the company sells a number of custom flags — including those featuring city, college and state logos — big and small alike.
Workers recently worked on a 60 by 90 foot pirate-style flag for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the largest one the company has created, Tettleton said, was 150 by 300 feet, big enough to display on a football field.
Good quality flags may last for years, depending on how they are treated.
Some government office buildings change their flags three or four times a year. Some homeowners may fly their flags 24/7 and change them out every year or so.
-- Anna M. Tinsley