On this date in 1777, the Continental Congress approved the Stars and Stripes design for the flag of the new United States.
Today is the 225th birthday of the official American flag, but since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the country has unofficially been celebrating Flag Day every day.
Americans by the millions have decorated their cars, houses, mailboxes, gardens and even themselves with flags. Old Glory has been reintroduced to classrooms and businesses, and its colors billow from highway overpasses and glisten on millions of lapels.
Here, in honor of Flag Day, are some flag facts:
Businesses are still struggling to meet the unprecedented demand for the Stars and Stripes. "Last September, we basically sold a year's worth of flags in a few weeks," said Rick Wyatt, owner of CRW Flags Inc. in Glen Burnie.
"Demand in the industry is running at about 30 percent above normal," said Dale Coots, marketing manager for the world's largest flag maker, Annin and Company of Roseland, N.J. Annin, founded in the 1820s, has never faced such a high demand in so short a period of time. Annin flags have flown at every presidential inauguration since 1849, and Neil Armstrong planted an Annin flag on the moon in 1969.
With flags in short supply, businesses such as Domino's Pizza produced their own versions. Spokeswoman Holly Ryan said Domino's has distributed at least 24 million flag decals.
According to flag protocol, a flag decal displayed on a vehicle should simulate what the flag would look like if it were in motion. Thus, said Kimberly Plaskett, a spokeswoman for Greyhound Lines Inc., the flags that Greyhound buses carry on the right-hand side look "backward," with the blue field in the upper right. The driver side displays the flag with the blue on the upper left.
Flag etiquette also dictates that the American flag should always wave higher than other flags, except when the flag of another nation is simultaneously displayed. In Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Stars and Stripes billows from the tallest pole, flanked by the Maryland and Baltimore City flags. But when the Orioles play the Montreal Expos or the Toronto Blue Jays, the state and city flags are removed so the U.S. and Canadian flags can wave from equal heights.
Baltimoreans, of course, can find monumental flag history here since the city is the birthplace of both the national anthem and the flag that tradition says inspired it.
In August 1814, Baltimore residents watched in horror as the horizon pulsated an eerie red. The British were burning Washington, and Baltimore would be next. Soldiers at Fort McHenry had a new addition to their arsenal: a flag measuring 30 feet by 42 feet. It was made by Mary Young Pickersgill, whose home is now the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum.
Pickersgill's flag has 15 stripes, each two feet high, and 15 stars, two feet from tip to tip.
The Flag House, at 844 E. Pratt St., has a copy of Pickersgill's invoice, charging $405.90 for the flag. Today, the flag is undergoing an $18 million restoration at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Designer Ralph Lauren alone donated $13.5 million to the project.
The British bombarded Fort McHenry on Sept. 13, 1814. Larry Del Prete, a Flag House historian, said the fort withstood some 1,800 mortar bombs and rockets over about 25 hours. The next morning, Francis Scott Key, on board a ship, heard guns from the fort and knew it had withstood the brunt of the attack. He began to compose a poem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." But contrary to popular belief, said Del Prete, the flag Key saw from the ship was not Pickersgill's, but a 17-by-25-foot storm flag. The Star-Spangled Banner was hoisted only after the British surrendered.
In honor of Key's anthem, the Flag House will hold its third annual a cappella "Star-Spangled Banner" singing contest tomorrow. Twenty contestants will compete for cash and the chance to sing the anthem at an Orioles game.
The youngest competitor, 9-year-old Cameron Di Leo, wants to sing with a lot of emotion. What will be running through his mind? "I think of what [Key] sang in the song and the questions he's asking."
The oldest contestant, Krista Ports, 41, will be trying to calm her four daughters' nerves. "They don't want me to win," Ports said, laughing. "They don't want any more publicity."
Ports has always wanted to sing the national anthem in public, but singing at Camden Yards summons a few butterflies. "If I ever won, I'd probably vomit on the field," Ports said.
Baltimore is also the birthplace of a lesser known pastime: flagpole sitting. In 1929, a flagpole craze gripped the city. "Shipwreck" Kelly, the best-known flagpole-sitter, sat atop a pole for 49 days straight.
The largest flag in the world belonged to the late Thomas "Ski" Demski of Long Beach, Calif. "Superflag" measures 255 feet by 505 feet and weighs about 3,000 pounds.
Demski's executor, Jim Alexander, said Demski commissioned Superflag because he wanted the world's largest flag to be an American flag. Demski and his team hired Humphrey's Flags of Pottstown, Pa., to make the flag. Replicating it would cost more than $100,000. Superflag has traveled to the Washington Monument and to the Hoover Dam for the Olympic torch relay. It will appear on the USS Hornet in Alameda, Calif., today.
Sun news researcher Shelia Jackson contributed to this article.