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Constitution Day and Constitution Week

A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution

Our United States Constitution was created during the long hot summer of 1787, at the State House in Philadelphia. From the Charters of Freedom, A New World Is At Hand, in the National Archives:

May 25, 1787. Freshly spread dirt covered the cobblestone street in front of the Pennsylvania State House, protecting the men inside from the sound of assing carriages and carts. Guards stood at the entrances to ensure that the curious were kept at a distance. Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, the “financier” of the Revolution, opened the proceedings with a nomination–Gen. George Washington for the presidency of the Constitutional Convention. The vote was unanimous. With characteristic ceremonial modesty, the general expressed his embarrassment at his lack of qualifications to preside over such an august body and apologized for any errors into which he might fall in the course of its deliberations.

To many of those assembled, especially to the small, boyish-looking, 36-year-old delegate from Virginia, James Madison, the general’s mere presence boded  well for the convention, for the illustrious Washington gave to the gathering an air of importance and legitimacy But his decision to attend the convention had been an agonizing one. The Father of the Country had almost remained at home.

Suffering from rheumatism, despondent over the loss of a brother, absorbed in the management of Mount Vernon, and doubting that the convention would accomplish very much or that many men of stature would attend, Washington delayed accepting the invitation to attend for several months. Torn between the hazards of lending his reputation to a gathering perhaps doomed to failure and the chance that the public would view his reluctance to attend with a critical eye, the general finally agreed to make the trip. James Madison was pleased.

Continue reading the story at Archives.gov.

The Daughters of the American Revolution have long promoted the Constitution, and in 1929 dedicated their Constitution Hall in tribute to the Constitution. In 1955, the DAR petitioned Congress to set aside the week of September 17-23 each year, to be dedicated for the observance of Constitution Week. The resolution was later adopted by the U.S. Congress and signed into public law on August 2, 1956, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Saturday, the DAR will host ceremonies all across the United States to honor and read the U.S. Constitution.  The aims of the DAR during the Constitution Week celebration are to:

  • Emphasize citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution.
  • Inform people that the Constitution is the basis for America’s great heritage and the foundation for our way of life.
  • Encourage the study of the historical events which led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787.

 Constitution_Pg1of4_AC

See here, for a splendid recitation of the Preamble to the Constitution.

See also Constitution Day

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Presenting the Colors—how to conduct a flag ceremony indoors

Yesterday I received an email through the contact page asking:

Can you tell me if there is a ceremonial procedure for carrying the flag from one end of a room to another for posting prior to the start of a meeting?

I sent an answer to CD, but my response bounced right back to me. There’s a server problem on the other end, and CD may not even know it. I want to answer here, and hope that CD sees it.

We often think that we need people in uniforms (Boy Scouts, ROTC, et cetera) to present the colors, and certainly that is a traditional and customary way to do it, but any of us can present the colors. I’m sure the Daughters of the American Revolution must do their own flag presentations. To my knowledge, there are no specific rules within the U.S. Code on how to present the colors. So this is my suggestion, and it relies heavily on military tradition and instructions for Boy Scout.

The person in charge of the event should ask all there to please stand. "All rise," and when everyone is standing (who are able), then "Color Guard, please present the colors."

The U.S. flag is always carried aloft and free, never flat or horizontally. If the U.S. flag is the only flag carried, it should have an honor guard to its left, or two honor guards, one on each side.

When carried with other flags, as in a straight line abreast, the U.S. flag is carried on its own right side—all the way to the right—of other flags.

Sometimes when a lot of flags (usually five or more) are carried, then the U.S. flag is positioned in the center and in front (one or two steps) of the other flags, or the other flags are carried slightly lower than the U.S. flag so that the U.S. flag is prominent.

DKH_21If a state flag is presented too, then the state flag is positioned to the immediate left of the U.S. flag, then civic, club, or corporate flag to the left of the state flag (and those are determined by chronological order of their historic or original charter—just like state flags).

As the color guard comes down the approach, the flag stands having been pre-positioned, the party will slow or even come to a stop. The U.S. flag goes first, turning left and crossing in front of the other flags and is placed first into the flag stand, then the other flags go in order after that.

Frequently the U.S. flag will be on the one side (the right side as it faces the audience) of the stage or platform, with the state flag on the other side, but they don’t have to be separated. Just remember that the U.S. flag is always to the right of the arrangement when in final position and facing the audience.

Usually in a group setting, everyone will salute the flag at the beginning and hold it until the flags are returned to the flag stands (and Boy Scouts will be given the order to salute), but if the venue is large, then one salutes the flag as it passes abreast of your position, and holds the salute until the flag has cleared your position.

All the usual and customary rules apply for saluting.

In a Boy Scout flag ceremony, the Scouts will recite the Pledge of Allegiance before "posting" the colors, or putting the flag back into the flag stand. The color guard will be facing the audience and the person in charge of the event will say (for example), "Will you please join me in the Pledge of Allegiance." When finished, the flags will be inserted into the flag stands.

But the flags could be placed first, and then recite the Pledge. Depending on the ceremony, someone might be invited on-stage to lead the Pledge, which would be a lovely way of giving special recognition.

Here is an entry on The Daily Flag from February 5, 2008, that links to a color guard ceremony in Hawaii that is uncomplicated and beautiful.

The image used above comes from www.utahscouts.org.

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The State Flag of Illinois

State Flag of IllinoisIt has been a long time since I put up a state flag story, but it’s a good day to write about Illinois. By my count, Illinois is one of only five white flags in the colorful array of state flags. But it is by no means a plain flag. In fact, it features a plethora of national patriotic symbols.

Illinois became a state in 1818, yet it was almost one hundred years later—in 1915—before Illinois got around to adopting a state flag. If you have read other state flag stories at The Daily Flag, you won’t be surprised when I tell you the ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution were behind the creation of the Illinois state flag.

In 1912, Ella Park Lawrence, a resident of Galesburg, Illinois and State Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), attended a national DAR meeting in Washington, D.C. While in the national capital, Mrs. Lawrence discovered that the State of Illinois did not have a state flag. She came home and began a strong campaign to adopt a design for state flag.

Mrs. Lawrence visited D.A.R. chapters across Illinois, and lobbied state officials and members of the Illinois General Assembly in her efforts to promote interest in an official State flag. She sent a letter to every D.A.R. chapter in Illinois, offering a $25.00 prize to the organization that submitted the best design for an official State flag.

The winning entry was submitted by Lucy Derwent of the Rockford Chapter. Derwent’s design was based upon the state’s seal, created in 1868 by Illinois’ Secretary of State, Sharon Tyndale.

On a white background stands a bald eagle perched on a gray rock. On the rock are two dates: 1818, representing the year Illinois was admitted to the Union, and 1868, the year of Tyndale’s state seal design. In its beak, the bald eagle holds a red ribbon upon which the State Motto, “State sovereignty, national union” is written. A red, white, and blue shield lies tilted against the rock. It contains 13 stripes and 13 stars to represent the number of original colonies.

ella-lawrence-with-illinois-state-flagThe design was approved by the General Assembly and became law on July 16, 1915. Ella Lawrence requested five hand-made flags. They were distributed to the D.A.R. Memorial Continental Hall in Washington D.C., the Illinois State D.A.R., the Illinois State Historical Society, the Illinois Governor and the Illinois Secretary of State. One of these originals now hangs in The Henry Knox Room, located on the first floor of the Old Knox County Courthouse.

Flags with the initial design flew proudly for 55 years until Chief Petty Officer Bruce McDaniel initiated a change in design. McDaniel, then serving in Vietnam, became concerned when the identity of the Illinois flag was often questioned as it hung along side many other state flags in the mess hall where he was stationed. He proposed that a new design include the state’s name as well.

Mrs. Sanford Hutchinson was asked to draft the new design, because she had been extensively involved in the development of the state seal. The new design, now with the name “Illinois” appearing in blue print underneath, was accepted on July 1, 1970 as the official flag of Illinois.

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Pennsylvanians consider changes to their state flag

Pennsylvania State Flag

State Flag of Pennsylvania

Last February I wrote Name This Flag, an article in The Daily Flag about the strong similarity in twenty-eight of our state flags: the use of the state seal or coat of arms on a blue background. I also pointed out the imagery of a sailing ship in five of those state flags: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York, and Oregon.

In Pennsylvania, Rep. Timothy Solobay, D. 48th District, Washington County, has introduced a bill that if passed will add distinctive gold lettering to the state flag to read Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“I am proud of this state and I want to make sure that anyone who sees our flag immediately knows that it is from this wonderful Commonwealth, home to America’s oldest freely elected legislature,” said Solobay,

The design of Pennsylvania’s flag was originally adopted by the General Assembly in 1799. The last time it was modified was 1907 when a law was passed that mandated that the blue field that holds the coat of arms be the same blue as the field in “Old Glory,” our national flag.

Solobay’s legislation has received bipartisan support, but Solobay would also like to hear the public’s voice on the matter. He has posted a survey on his website, where residents can choose which design they would like to see if his bill is passed.

a proposed new Penn flag designThe survey is here, if you want to take a look at the designs under consideration. Of the choices offered, I like this one (left) the best, though it leaves off the world “Commonwealth.”

Personally, I think the Pennsylvania state legislature should ask the Pennsylvania Society Daughters of the American Revolution to sponsor a contest to design a new state flag. The DAR in Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, and Oklahoma (to name a few) have enjoyed enormous success with flag design.