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Woodlawn community celebrates Flag Day, 1914

Shown here are a group of Woodlawn students in a Flag Day ceremony, as they march out to the school’s flag pole to honor our nation’s banner on Flag Day. Their teacher is also shown giving instructions as the school’s student body looks on. In 1914, similar ceremonies took place in many schools across the United States and tomorrow, June 14, local elementary schools will no doubt have some kind of ceremony to honor our nation’s flag.

This scene was originally recorded at the former Woodlawn School on Lake Shore Road. The building was constructed in 1911 and was the community’s first school. As with most early school buildings, it soon could not handle a growing school population and as a result in 1919 it had to be expanded and renovated.

In 1937 it became primarily an elementary school when the new Woodlawn Junior-Senior High School was constructed on Milestrip Road. Both buildings still stand and at present are used for other purposes by new owners. Woodlawn schools became a part of the Frontier Central School System in 1951 and its students then went on to attend Frontier Schools.

The celebration of Flag Day and the establishment of formal ceremonies centered around our nation’s flag was slow to gain popular acceptance in the country. In fact, the first Flag Day observance did not take place until June 14, 1861, almost a century after its official adoption, and by the end of the 19th century, the day’s observance had received only gradual recognition. New York State by 1890 was one of the first to make a special provision for observing Flag Day in its public schools.

However. William T. Kerr, who lived first in Pittsburgh and later in Philadelphia in the turn of the century, is recognized by many as the “Father of Flag Day.” From the time he was a school boy, he had urged the observance of the day and his enthusiasm continued into adult life. Later, in the first decade of the 20th century, flag historian Bernard Cigrand of Chicago and Joseph H. Hart, a businessman from Allentown, Pa., also led campaigns to set aside a special day for the nation’s flag.

Because of the work of these men, the desire to celebrate a flag day came to the attention of many people, including government leaders. In 1893, the mayor of Philadelphia ordered that the banner be displayed on June 14 on all city buildings and four years later the governor of New York State ordered that the flag be flown over all public buildings on that day.

In 1816, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation asking the nation to observe June 14 as Flag Day and in 1927, President Calvin Coolidge did the same. However, it wasn’t until Aug. 3, 1949 that Congress agreed to a joint resolution and President Harry S. Truman officially designated that June 14 would be thereafter set aside for Flag Day.

Why June 14? Well, it was on June 14, 1777 that Congress resolved “That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” This was almost a year after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. However, it wasn’t until after the winning of independence in 1783 that the flag was legally recognized as the banner of the United States.

Following independence, many changes were made in the flag. In January 1794, when Kentucky and Vermont were admitted to the Union, Congress made the first of several changes, adding two stripes and two stars to the flag. That 15-stripe 15-star flag approved in 1794 served as the nation’s banner from 1795 until 1818. When several new states were carved out of the Northwest Territory in 1818 and applied for statehood, Congress realized adding more stars and stripes to the flag was not practical.

For this reason, on July 4, 1818, Congress passed a third law affection the national flag. It fixed the number of stripes in the nation’s flag at 13 and provided for the automatic addition of a new star for each state thereafter. Following the adoption of the 1818 law, there was no significant flag law for almost 100 years.

Then in 1912, President William Howard Taft issued two executive orders. These orders set the proportions of the height and width of the flag and its canton and width of each stripe and diameter of each star. The law also standardized the arrangement of the stars on the flag canton. The canton is the top inner quarter of the flag.

Photo – Historian files

Reference – American Book of Days, Hatch 1978

This column is written each week by Hamburg Town Historian Jim Baker.

Anyone wanting to submit photographs and/or materials can call the Town Historian Jim Baker at the Hamburg Town Hall on either Wednesday or Thursday between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at 649-6111 ext. 2400.

Readers can also provide feedback by writing to The Sun and mailing it to The Sun, 141 Buffalo St., Hamburg, NY 14075.


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