June 14th marks the celebration of Flag Day in the United States. The date is significant in that the Second Continental Congress had, on that day in 1777, adopted the “Stars and Stripes” as the flag of a budding nation. The assembled body resolved “that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
As the nation grew, there were more stars added to the flag, but the thirteen stripes remained. Interest in honoring the flag grew as well. By the latter half of the 19th century, schoolteachers in Wisconsin and New York had begun arranging patriotic days for their pupils. Celebrations became grander and more elaborate. In 1894, 300,000 children participated in a day to honor the flag in parks across Chicago. President Woodrow Wilson established an official Flag Day by proclamation in May 1916. Not long after that, the United States entered into World War I. Patriotic sentiments were running high.
Here in Wyoming, University of Wyoming professor Grace Raymond Hebard took patriotism and respect for the flag seriously.
Dr. Hebard taught free ten-week long citizenship courses to prepare immigrants to become naturalized citizens. It was a progressive, and perhaps somewhat controversial, act which fell under the umbrella of Americanization. Her courses were held in her University of Wyoming classroom, against a backdrop of the American flag. All of her lessons included some aspect of the patriotism that was expected of the future American citizens. Immigrants who completed Hebard’s evening classes were recommended for citizenship without having to complete any additional exams. After the naturalization ceremony at the courthouse, Dr. Hebard pinned a small silk American flag to the coat of each new citizen.
Following one such ceremony at Laramie’s courthouse, a lawyer present at the event said to Hebard, “Although you have no sons to send to war, you certainly have made three patriotic loyal citizens out of that number of aliens.”
Students of Dr. Hebard learned “The American’s Creed,” which was based on a statement written by William Tyler Page in 1917. Page had served as the President General of the United States Flag Association and was also the 28th Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Referring to the Creed, Page said “It is the summary of the fundamental principles of the American political faith as set forth in its greatest documents, its worthiest traditions, and its greatest leaders.”
Dr. Hebard’s patriotic endeavors extended beyond the classroom. She served as the State Historian of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In that role, she assisted in the erection of monuments and markers across the state of Wyoming commemorating the route of the Oregon Trail.
Whether it was in the classroom or in the community, Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard never shied away from waving the flag. You can pour through the papers of this patriotic University of Wyoming professor at the American Heritage Center.
Post contributed by AHC Writer Kathryn Billington.