Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators—The Grand Old Flag

1977 Flag Day Program/tiles/non-collection/6/6-6-Flag-Day-2002_005_009-6.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Jim Oliver Collection
About this object
A tradition for decades, this program for the 1977 Flag Day ceremony in the House of Representatives heralded the arrival of singer Johnny Cash in the well of the House.

“And she is getting threadbare and she’s wearing thin, But she’s in good shape for the shape she is in, Cause she’s been through the fire before…Cause I am mighty proud of that ragged old flag.”
-Johnny Cash, Ragged Old Flag as reprinted, Congressional Record, House, 95th Cong., 1st sess. (14 June 1977).

A 1916 presidential proclamation first designated national Flag Day on June 14—the date the Continental Congress approved the design of the national flag in 1777. In 1949, the House and Senate passed a joint resolution declaring June 14 as Flag Day. It also authorized the President to issue a proclamation that flags be displayed at government buildings and urged all citizens to observe the anniversary. This edition for educators is devoted to the American flag.

Featured Representative

John Linthicum of Maryland
A lawyer from Baltimore, Maryland, Representative John Linthicum championed the designation of the “Star-Spangled Banner” as the National Anthem. Linthicum’s legislation struggled in the House, but was eventually successful. During Judiciary Committee testimony, the Congressman implored his colleagues that the nation “needed a national song to give expression to its patriotism.”

Featured Blogs

Preparations for Opening of the 76th Congress/tiles/non-collection/6/6-6-Chamber-Flag-PA2012_04_0038.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Preparations for the opening of the 76th Congress on January 3, 1939, included hanging the flag and adjusting the rostrum's microphone.

Hoist the Colors
Tasked with updating the American flag following the War of 1812, New York Representative Peter H. Wendover sought the advice of Captain Samuel C. Reid, one of America’s most famous privateers. After privateering under the star-spangled banner, what fresh ideas could Reid bring to the much-needed new design?

The Man in Black’s Tribute to the Ragged Old Flag
On June 14, 1977, the Man in Black strode into the House Chamber as if it were the Grand Ole Opry. But music legend Johnny Cash wasn't about to belt out tunes for any ordinary concert. Rather, Cash delivered a moving poem to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. flag.

Featured House Object

House of Representatives Flag, 2001
After the Capitol was evacuated on September 11, 2001, the Clerk of the House located and preserved the flag that flew over the House wing that day.

Capitol, Eagle and Flag Postcard, 1908
This colorful, embossed postcard was mailed to a lucky recipient on May 28, 1908. Publisher Julius Bien and Co. was known for its sentimental thematic cards. In the foreground are familiar patriotic symbols: a bald eagle and an American flag. The eagle is depicted with its wings extended, gripping a laurel branch and flag in its talons. In the background, the front of the Capitol Building completes the classic composition.

The Cannon Building Flag at Half Mast/tiles/non-collection/6/6-6-Half-Mast-Flag-pa2014_07_0005.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
An attendant lowers the flag on the Cannon House Office Building to half mast following the death of Speaker Joseph W. Byrns.

Featured Historical Highlight

An Enormous American Flag was Displayed at the Capitol
On June 9, 1929, on a late Sunday afternoon, an enormous American flag (on loan from a Detroit department store) was displayed at the Capitol having been draped across the central facade of the West Front as a backdrop to a Vespers Flag Service. The flag, said to be the largest in existence, measured 90 by 165 feet—with bars eight feet wide and the stars spanning five and one half feet each.

Record Number of Flags Flown Over the Capitol
On July 4, 1976, 10,471 flags flew over the U.S. Capitol in celebration of America’s Bicentennial, a single-day record. American flags commemorating the 200th anniversary of the country were in high demand by Members and constituents.

The Apollo 11 Crew Members Appear Before A Joint Meeting of Congress
On September 16, 1969, Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts introduced the Apollo 11 crew members before a Joint Meeting of Congress. “We are honoring today three men who represent the best in America and whose coordinated skill, fantastic daring, and visionary drive have made history that constitutes a turning point of paramount importance in the journey of mankind,” Speaker McCormack proclaimed. Before the conclusion of the meeting, the honorees presented Speaker McCormack and Vice President Spiro Agnew with two American flags that had flown over the respective chambers before being brought onto the moon.

Featured Record

Debate and materials supporting the designation of the Star-Spangled Banner can be found in the Committee on the Judiciary Records for the 71st Congress (1929–1931).

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.