Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flag Day

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day to commemorate the adoption of the American flag on that day by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. Wilson, in fact, had been urged to do so by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks which had observed Flag Day for a number of years prior to 1916. In 1907, the Elks had designated June 14 for observances of Flag Day and in 1911 all lodges were required to mark the holiday. Locally, the Middleborough Lodge of Elks had long observed the holiday (their ceremonies in 1914 being described as "impressive"), and the revival of the holiday in Middleborough must be ascribed to that group and other patriotic organizations.

Though Flag Day ceremonies were held in Middleborough and Lakeville on occasions prior to 1900, by 1909 interest seems to have waned and in that year the Gazette remarked that Flag Day largely went unnoticed locally. However, a flurry of activity and observances in the years immediately following 1909 helped resurrect the holiday. In 1911, the local Nemasket Chapter of the D. A. R. observed Flag Day as did the G. A. R. (the Civil War veterans' organization) and the G. A. R.'s auxiliary, the Women's Relief Corps. These and other groups ensured that Middleborough's schools, public buildings and civic organizations such as the Y. M. C. A. were furnished with flags, and that the day was properly marked.

It was the Elks, however, which held the most impressive ceremonies in Middleborough aimed at generating both an appreciation of and a proper respect for the American flag as the symbol of the nation. Lodge members were expected to attend ceremonies which were held in various locales over the years including Middleborough Town Hall, the Park Theatre on Nickerson Avenue and the local Elks Lodge on High Street. Patriotic speeches, lectures, readings and music frequently accompanied the observances. In time, however, even these ceremonies became smaller in scale until, today, Flag Day (as in 1909) largely passes unnoticed.
G. A. R. Members, photograph, c. 1910 (colorized 2009)
Members of Middleborough's E. W. Peirce Post, G. A. R., parade down Center Street in a 1905 Cadillac bedecked with flags driven by Charles F. David, editor of the Middleboro News. Though later eclipsed by the Elks in the size and scope of their Flag Day observances, the G. A. R. along with its women's auxiliary, the Women's Relief Corps, was largely responsible for revitalizing local Flag Day observances in the early 1900s.
Annual Flag Day Service, advertisement, Middleboro Gazette, June 10, 1921

Updated December 8, 2009, 9:59 PM.


Post a Comment