Saturday will mark the 237th birthday of the flag of the United States — the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, the Star-Spangled Banner.
But this year’s observance will be special, as it is the 200th anniversary of the Francis Scott Key poem “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which became our national anthem.
For the record, Key didn’t write the poem on June 14. He visited Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Sept. 14, 1814. Flag Day itself is celebrated on the anniversary of the day in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress voted to adopt a flag of the United States.
To mark the bicentennial of the national anthem, a massive singalong is planned. At 4 p.m. Saturday, voices across the country will unite in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Some groups, such as those gathering at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and Macy’s in Chicago, will be large. Others will be small, such as Scout troops or individual families.
But everyone, even individuals, is invited to participate.
The original star-spangled banner is housed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It’s an enormous flag, 30-by-42 feet. It was made by Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore, who was paid $405.90 to piece together red, blue and undyed wool and to apply 15 cotton stars.
In 1777, about a year after the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes pattern for the national flag.
Flag Day was first celebrated in 1877, the flag’s 100th birthday. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation making June 14 as Flag Day; and in 1949, President Harry S. Truman signed legislation officially creating Flag Day as our national day of commemoration.
Flag Day is a time to think about the values our flag symbolizes, values such as freedom and sacrifice. Without the sacrifice of those who fought and died for those principles, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the freedoms we do today.