Awareness of Flag Day seems to have flagged since 9/11

Following Sept. 11, 2001, 'There was more awareness in the public mind as to Flag Day and what it meant'


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If you didn't know today is Flag Day, you're likely not alone. But just 11 years ago, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the holiday probably wouldn't have swept by so easily unnoticed.

Richard Gideon, 65, of Mt. Lebanon is a vexillologist, or someone who studies flags. He said that up until 2001, Flag Day, which commemorates the Second Continental Congress' adoption of the American flag on this day in 1777, was an "almost unknown" holiday, but 9/11 temporarily changed that, he said.

"There was more awareness in the public mind as to Flag Day and what it meant," Mr. Gideon said.

But over the past decade, that awareness has begun to fade again, Mr. Gideon said. Every year, the president of the United States signs a proclamation designating June 14 as Flag Day, but the holiday has little effect on federal activities, and it has clearly never reached the stature of holidays like the Fourth of July.

In Allegheny County, Common Pleas Court, the district attorney's office, the treasurer's office, and the sheriff's office, except for the office's real estate division, will be closed today in observance of Flag Day.

Cliff Ruderer, who owns Flag Factory in Castle Shannon with his wife, Carol, said that, mirroring the trend in attention paid to Flag Day, the sale of flags rose and subsequently fell following 9/11. "Pretty much the whole country was sold out of flags for quite a while," he said. Since then, demand has tapered off significantly.

National statistics support Mr. Ruderer's observation. Reggie Vanden Bosch, chairman of the Flag Manufacturers Association of America, said that the wholesale level of flag sales by American manufacturers currently stands somewhere between $300 million and $350 million annually. Following 9/11, sales were significantly higher, he said, reaching nearly double the current level for a period of time.

In response to certain events, Americans tend to put up more flagpoles, Mr. Vanden Bosch said. But flagpoles have a life span, and they often aren't immediately put up again after being taken down.

"It does tend to follow waves of patriotism in the country, and as you get away from those events, people start dropping out of the hobby of flying flags," Mr. Vanden Bosch said.

Because the flag industry is still built around elevated sales numbers from a decade ago, it's currently quite competitive, Mr. Vanden Bosch said. Most flags are sold in the spring, Mr. Ruderer said, and in terms of holidays, Flag Factory sees the most action around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

"The demand tends to peak in April and May," Mr. Ruderer said. "By Flag Day, most people have already gotten their flag."

The Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution have organized their Flag Day Ceremony for 10 a.m. Saturday at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland. At the event, roughly 200 eighth-grade students from public and private schools in the region will be recognized with awards for either proficiency in history or good citizenship.

nation - holidays

Gavan Gideon: ggideon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-4910.


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