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September 30: Popularizing Flag Day

Lawrence Bush
September 29, 2016
Benjamin Altheimer, a St. Louis financier who helped turn a Texas patriotic holiday into a national holiday -- Flag Day, on June 14 -- was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on this date in 1877. After witnessing a flag ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, he returned home and offered to provide a "fine flag to any institution that would formally observe" the day, according to a June 13, 1930 edition of the Ludington Daily News. He soon "had to hire several secretaries to handle the requests and he went into the flag-purchasing business on a big scale." In 1912, St. Louis officially observed Flag Day for the first time, and in 1916, after meeting with Altheimer, President Woodrow Wilson officially established the day. June 14, 1777 was the date that the Stars and Stripes was officially adopted as the national flag by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The original 13-star flag was designed by Elizabeth Griscom "Betsy" Ross, who according to family lore (her grandson's writings) changed the stars from six-point to five-point stars because it was easier to cut fabric in that shape. To learn more about Benjamin Altheimer, click here. "A scholarly looking old gentleman with a fine white beard, he is very grateful to the land of his adoption -- he was born in Germany -- for the money it brought him. Most of his large income goes to charity."--Ludington Daily News

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.