Circle June 14 on your calendar. That’s the anniversary when, in 1777, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Stars and Stripes as our nation’s flag. And Flag Day at the Betsy Ross House is a must-see week of events. But despite its historic significance, it took many years for Betsy’s home to be the focal point of Flag Day celebrations.
Up until 1893, when Charles Weisgerber’s painting Birth of Our Nation’s Flag received so much acclaim at the Chicago World’s Fair, Philadelphia hadn’t paid much notice of the flag’s anniversary. New York and Boston had been holding observances since 1877 but it took one Dr. Edward Brooks, who was the superintendent of Philadelphia’s schools, to wave the banner for a celebration of America’s banner. Newspapers of the day reported that Arch Street was adorned in swaths of the red, white and blue, and local school children flocked to the Betsy Ross House where they toured the home, sang songs and were each given a small commemorative flag.
By the early 20th century, festivities amped up, combining the somber – prayer services, history talks, speeches and poetry readings – with the celebratory – parades, musical presentations, flag raising ceremonies and appearances by fife and drum corps.
Today, Flag Day in Philadelphia is so big it takes several days to celebrate. Visitors can meet Betsy and learn about Philadelphia’s 18th century flag-making industry, participate in flag making activities, learn about chocolate-making, observe flag-raising ceremonies and welcome those who take their oath and are sworn in as America’s newest citizens during a moving Naturalization ceremony.