'Father of Flag Day' was a dentist

May 3, 2005
Dr. Bernard J. Cigrand, a former dean of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, also served as president of the American Flag Day Association.

Since the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has experienced an increased devotion to the stars and stripes. That devotion is most apparent on Flag Day. This year the day will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 14.

There would be no Flag Day, however, without a dentist, Dr. Bernard J. Cigrand, who is considered the "Father of Flag Day."

Dr. Cigrand, who lived from 1866 to 1932, was the third dean of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, serving in that post from 1903 to 1906.

Dr. Cigrand's biographer, historian James L. Brown, wrote in The Real Bernard J. Cigrand: The Father of Flag Day, that as a grade school teacher in 1885, Dr. Cigrand held the first recognized formal observance of Flag Day at Stony Hill School in Waubeka, WI. The school has been restored, and a bust of Dr. Cigrand also honors him at the National Flag Day Americanism Center in Waubeka.

From the late 1880s on, Dr. Cigrand spoke around the country "promoting patriotism, respect for the flag, and the need for the annual observance" of a flag day on June 14, the day in 1777 that the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes.

He became president of the American Flag Day Association and later of the National Flag Day Society, which allowed him to promote his cause with organizational backing. Dr. Cigrand, according to Brown, once noted that he had given 2,188 speeches on patriotism and the flag.

After joining the UIC College of Dentistry's teaching staff in 1899, Dr. Cigrand was elected by faculty to the Paris International Congress of Educators in 1900, and also was elected secretary of the faculty before becoming dean. After his deanship, he remained on the faculty well into the 1920s, and was a frequent contributor to five Chicago newspapers.
In 1916, after 30 years of Dr. Cigrand's advocacy, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 Flag Day in 1916. (Congress would finally formally make the proclamation law in 1949).

The public generally credited Dr. Cigrand with being the "Father of Flag Day," with the Chicago Tribune noting that he "almost singlehandedly" established the holiday.

Brown noted he wrote the book because "Cigrand obviously had made a noteworthy contribution to the history of America and the facts about him needed to be rediscovered and preserved," he said.