Though the Flag Day was first celebrated in 1877, with the centennial of the U.S. flag's existence, the idea of making it a public celebration is believed to have originated in 1885.
In course of time a number of individuals and organizations advocated the adoption of a national day of commemoration for the U.S. Flag. However, B.J. Cigrand, a teacher from the Wisconsin Public School, District 6, is believed to be a forerunner of the thought. He organized the pupils in the Fredonia, to observe June 14 as 'Flag Birthday'. It was the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes, the first national flag of the United States. It was a bid to inspire and educate the school children with spirit of the Flag as well as love for the nation. And it was not a single shot bid. Cigrand continued to advocate the need for its observance in the following years through numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses. But the celebration was yet to take off in a well defined style and in a wider scale.
On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, planned appropriate ceremonies for the children of his school, and his idea of observing Flag Day was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.
Inspired by Colonel J Granville Leach, a historian, the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America adopted a resolution on April 25, 1893. The resolution requested the mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority and all private citizens to display the Flag on June 14th. Leach went on to recommend that thereafter the day be known as 'Flag Day'. It was also recommended that on that day, school children be assembled for appropriate exercises, with each child being given a small Flag.
As a result of the resolution, Dr. Edward Brooks, then Superintendent of Public Schools of Philadelphia, directed that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14, 1893 in Independence Square. School children were assembled, each carrying a small Flag, and patriotic songs were sung and addresses delivered.
In 1894, the governor of New York directed that on June 14 the Flag be displayed on all public buildings. Meanwhile, with BJ Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the driving force, the Illinois organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, came into being. Its purpose was to promote the holding of Flag Day exercises. And thanks to its initiative, on June 14th, 1894, the first general public school children's celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held. More than 300,000 children participated in the programs held various parks across Chicago. Adults, too, participated in patriotic programs in different parts of the country. And the celebration registered increasing popularity as more and more localities and states over the next three decades.
The Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson established it officially on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years following Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, the 14th of June was designated by President Harry Truman as National Flag Day to be celebrated each year across the nation.