The Story of the American Flag Through Stamps

The Father of Flag Day: Bernard Cigrand

37-cent Modern Hand Fan stamp
This stamp is part of the Old Glory series issued April 3, 2003.
37-cent 1888 Presidential Campaign Badge stamp
This stamp features a photograph of an 1888 presidential campaign badge with a pictorial representation of the Republican Party candidate, Benjamin Harrison.

Bernard J. Cigrand is considered by many to be the “Father” of Flag Day as we know it today. Working as a school teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin, Cigrand arranged for his pupils at Stony Hill School to celebrate the American flag’s ‘birthday’ on June 14, 1885. This celebration marked the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes. Shortly after this celebration, Cigrand moved to Chicago, Illinois, to attend dental school. His dedication to observing the birthday of the flag did not stop with his move. In June 1886, he publicly proposed an annual observance of the flag birthday in an article entitled “The Fourteenth of June,” published in a Chicago newspaper. His efforts remained steadfast in the years to come.

In 1888, Bernard Cigrand spoke before the Sons of America, a group dedicated to the preservation of the American flag and the American way of life, to promote the appropriate reverence for American emblems. Cigrand was appointed editor-in-chief to the organization’s magazine, American Standard, and would continually write articles enthusiastically advocating a ’flag day.’ Cigrand also advocated for a ’flag day’ in numerous other magazines and made many public speeches. He would later note that he had given over 2,188 speeches on American patriotism and the flag. Cigrand would become the president of the American Flag Day Association as well as the National Flag Day Society. These organizations provided financial support and national backing to his cause.