Archive for May, 2014

Origins of our Flag and Flag Day

Most people associate the Fourth of July with the birth of our nation and Flag Day, celebrated on June 14th every year, barely gets a second look. Why do we have a special day commemorating the Flag and why June 14th?


The Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act on June 14, 1777, which established an official flag for the new nation. The Act “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

 flag, first


This is the design that became the Official United States Flag on June14th, 1777. Each star and stripe represented a Colony of which there were thirteen, united nearly one year earlier by the Declaration of Independence. The only President to serve under this flag was George Washington (1789-1797). This Flag was to last for a period of 18 years until stars were added for other states that entered the union.

The idea of a day specifically celebrating the Flag is thought to have begun in 1885 by a school teacher in Wisconsin. The date of June 14th was chosen because it was the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777, which was the official adoption of the American Flag design. The day became known as “Flag Birthday”, which eventually became Flag Day. The celebration of Flag Day spread and by the late 19th century, many communities throughout the United States were having ceremonies in the schools where children would carry a small Flag while patriotic songs were sung.

On May 20, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson made a Proclamation establishing Flag Day on June 14th. Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after the proclamation, but it wasn’t until August 3, 1949 that National Flag Day was signed into law by President Harry Truman.



 flag, star spangled banner



This Flag became the Official United States Flag on May 1st, 1795. The 15-star, 15-stripe flag was authorized by the Flag Act of January 13, 1794, adding 2 stripes and 2 Stars. The two stars and stripes were added for the admission of Vermont and Kentucky into the union. This flag was the only U.S. Flag to have more than 13 stripes. It was immortalized by Francis Scott Key, when he wrote the poem The Star Spangled Banner, during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Sept 13, 1814. This flag design lasted for 23 years, until 1818. Realizing that the addition of a new star and new stripe for each new State was impractical, Congress passed the Flag Act of 1818 which returned the flag design to 13 stripes and specified 20 stars for the now 20 states.




Colonel John Riddle, Cincinnati Pioneer




Below is an excerpt from a booklet on Colonel John Riddle, one of the pioneers of Cincinnati, Ohio.    The booklet was written by our Education Director, Steve Preston. Steve is also a Master of Arts Public History Candidate at Northern Kentucky University. The booklet can be purchased at the Heritage Village Museum gift shop.



             While performing routine conservation on one of the artifacts at Heritage Village Museum, an intriguing story about a figure in early Cincinnati history began to unfold. The artifact belongs to The Society of the Colonial Dames in Ohio.  The “Colonial Dames” as they are locally known, are a national society dedicated to historic preservation and patriotism.  They own the 1804 Kemper Log Home on site, as well as the Model 1773 Charleville Musket and other artifacts within the home.  This musket, valuable as simply an antique firearm, has a priceless story to tell about its owner.
This Charleville Musket belonged to Colonel John Riddle.  A native of New Jersey, he immigrated to Cincinnati in 1790. John Riddle’s story starts in New Jersey but it ends here in Cincinnati during its formative years. Riddle’s experiences in New Jersey prepared him for the harsh and primitive life he would experience in newly settled Southwest Ohio.
Descendants of John Riddle had the forethought to preserve this musket for future generations, culminating in its donation to the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 1900s. As ownership of the Kemper Log Home passed from the Daughters of the American Revolution to The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the state of Ohio in 1952, so did Riddle’s musket. Like all the artifacts on display in the Kemper Home, the musket’s owner has a unique and compelling story.
John Riddle was a bear of a man, standing 5’10 and weighing 225 pounds. He was a man of many talents with a streak of adventurer in him. From New Jersey soldier, to privateer on the high seas, to blacksmith, to pioneer, to militia commander, his life certainly provides all the ingredients for a good story. His influence was felt from the Atlantic Seaboard to the heart of the American Midwest. As so many of these great stories are lost, found, only to be lost again, it is important to document this narrative so that it may be preserved to remain “found.”