National Flag Day
William T. Kerr, born near Collier in 1868, was the son of a Civil War veteran and was enthralled by his father’s war stories and tales of patriotism. At the age of 11, Kerr won a speech-writing and oratory contest in Pittsburgh and routinely discussed the importance of the flag during public appearances.
His passion for the flag led him to create the American Flag Day Association in 1888. For nearly 50 years, Kerr was a tireless supporter of the establishment of a national holiday to honor the American flag.
Thanks to his influence, Pennsylvania became the first state to establish Flag Day as a legal holiday on June 14, 1937. The state selected June 14 because it coincided with the date that the Continental Congress formally adopted the stars and stripes as a national symbol in 1777.
On Aug. 3, 1949, President Harry Truman signed House Bill 203, which declared June 14 as a national day of recognition for the flag. Kerr was by Truman’s side when the bill was signed.
Congress also requested, by joint resolution approved June 9, 1966, that the president annually issue a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as “National Flag Week” and call upon citizens of the United States to display the flag during that week.
In 1999, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicated a historical marker in the Rennerdale neighborhood of Collier that dubbed Kerr as “The Father of Flag Day.”
Visitors to the Fort Pitt Museum on Flag Day, Saturday, can join thousands of Americans in singing the national anthem at 4 p.m.
The Fort Pitt Museum event, which is part of the Smithsonian’s “Anthem for America” initiative, will feature a sing-a-long with Colonial re-enactors surrounding the museum’s 36-foot American flag.
For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org and click on the Fort Pitt Museum tab.
— Brady Smith, History Center senior communications manager