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 Research Papers

Today is:

Flag Day in Kearney

        A picture hangs in the Archives which is frequently noticed by visitors.  It was probably taken from a rooftop on the east side of Central Avenue looking down and to the west side.  The block of Central Ave between 21st and 22nd St. is completely filled with people. There is a platform in the street with elderly gentlemen seated on it. Signs on buildings behind them are for Killion Clothing and Downing Saddlery.

        Today that is the front of Hawthorn Jewelry and businesses north of it.

        Two American flags hang down from about 2nd floor with the stars on the right side.  Why?

The Event in 1923

June 14, 1923 – Flag Day celebration in Kearney

Estimated 2,000 people in that block
        Included Teachers college student body & school children

Men on platform are GAR members

Platform also used by song leader, speakers and the bands

High School band in new uniforms gave a preprogram concert of patriotic and martial music

Municipal band accompanied singing during the program

Program –

All sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”
Invocation by Rev. Keve [Methodist minister]
Speech by visiting former commander of York GAR
Kearney school students all waving flags marched to the school ground led by the high school band
Brief 10-minute speech about the flag, patriotism and loyalty
Group singing - “Star Spangled Banner”, Battle Hymn of the Republic” and other patriotic songs
Speech about Flag Day, its meaning, our allegiance

Flag Day - A History

June 14 - the day the Colonial Congress adopted the American flag in 1777.

1893 – Proposed in Boston that the flag wave from every house top

1894-1915 – Celebrated informally in many cities, sporadically, beginning in northeast.
        Gradually caught on across the nation.

1916 – President Woodrow Wilson proclamation - established June 14 as Flag Day
        Not a federal holiday

1937 – Pennsylvania first (and only) state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday.

1949 August – National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

[Still not a federal holiday]

Flag Day in Kearney



1894, June 14 – Mr. Osborne ran the flag up on top the opera house.
        The Hub thought maybe he had removed an extra page from his calendar and thought it was July 4.
        But Osborne said this was a common practice in the New England states and June 14 will undoubtedly be declared a national holiday.
        He was appointed as a committee of one to work up a celebration for June 14, 1895.

1895 - The GAR talked about it. Nothing happened.
        Sidney was the only town in Nebraska to celebrate flag day

(June 13, 1895 – Granddaughter of Francis Scott Key was dismissed from her government clerk’s job. She was supporting her 80 year old blind mother. Not good timing by the government.)

1900 – May 1 Flag Day
        In Lincoln. Parade –
                A living flag of 250 persons
                    Some in red & white for the stripes,
                    13 in blue, each with white star on his/her head.
                “impersonators” (reenactors) of the general and soldiers of every war
                ending with thousands of school children (upper elementary) with flags.

                End at university campus for unveiling of Spanish cannon.

        Moses Sydenham to give a lecture on the flag and remembrances of his time at Ft. Kearny:
                first telegraph office in the county in the private room of his post office,
                first news via pony express of the firing on the flag at Ft. Sumter,
                spiking of the Fort Kearney guns by a democratic [southern?] commander who deserted;
                democratic hiss to General Sherman at old Fort Kearney City that caused the abandonment of Fort Kearney.”

                [unfortunately there is no report on his speech reported on May 2]

1902 – 1915 –
        Nebraska governors annually declared June 14 Flag Day
        People were encouraged to fly the flag from their rooftops
        Sometimes people did not know why flags were displayed
        GAR WRC’s marked the day, sometimes publically, sometimes at their meetings
        Congregational Church celebrated on nearest Sunday sometimes

1916 – Pres. Wilson proclaimed June 14 Flag Day

Plans nationwide to make Flag Day a big celebration.
        Lincoln Highway Association planned to place flags all along the route from Boston to San Francisco
        In Kearney the Commercial Club was in charge of plans.
            A flag was to fly from every house top.
            To be the biggest celebration in Kearney ever.
            1500 people to be in the parade and the program to be held at Longfellow afterward.

        Parade to form at 2:30 – no later than 2:45 – on west 25th at Normal School
            Go east past soldier’s monument, saluting as they go by,
            Turn south down Central to 22nd,
            West to Longfellow.

        Participants in Parade

City officials
4 bands
GAR men & women
National Guard - The full company of the Kearney National Guard,
        including members who live along the highline.
Entire normal school student body and faculty
Boy scouts and boys on decorated wheels
Sunday School children with flags
Citizens and autos [anyone else who wanted to get in their car and join in?]

        8th grade graduation scheduled for 2 p.m. June 14 at the Methodist Church
                Changed to high school so they have time to participate in the parade,

        Co. Superintendent issued a call for all country school children to come and join the parade.

                That would increase parade participation by several hundred.

        The 19th Century Club arranged for 50 young ladies to march in the parade representing all the states and territories. There would also be a Miss Columbia and an Uncle Sam.

        Young ladies from the normal school dressed to represent the stripes and “starry” field of the flag.

        All businesses were asked to close at 3:25 and remain closed until Flag Day events were over

The celebration went as planned.
The school ground was crowded for the program [all done without a P A system]

1918 – Thursday, Apr. 4 President declared Flag Day.
        Kearneyites were encouraged to display the flag, wear it, and decorate their cars.
        Schools would have flag exercises in their rooms.
        Boy Scouts were to visit all homes not displaying a flag to find out why, refer them to a committee who would loan the one.

        People in Kearney were asked to keep the flags flying till after Saturday
                Liberty Loan day, a legal holiday in some communities
                but not in Kearney where businesses would be open.

Flag Day, June 14, a national holiday. No formal ceremonies in Kearney but all are requested to display the flag.


1919 – 1921 – Now the Elks were the ones observing Flag Day

Flag Rules
        Always have the flag hung well above the ground, never lower than a person sitting.
        Flag should be kept above your head at all times.
        Never used for draping, bunting is made for that
        Tattered flags, unless historically important, should be destroyed privately and replaced.
        Never used to drape a table publically
        Never used as wearing apparel
        [Nothing about which side the stars should be on when hung]

And Also -

Kearney Hub – Dec. 20, 1893, p. 2 in a section of the second column headed “After Thoughts”

Kearney Industrial School

        Where is your wayward wandering boy tonight?

        Is he roaming the streets or is he at home surrounded by good family influences?
        And if he has no home where is he?
        The county judge of Lancaster county told me on Monday that ten boys were there before his court on application to have them sent to the reform school.
        The Lincoln Call on Monday evening said: “That reform school at Kearney must be a very large institution, ‘said a gentleman yesterday, ‘or it would have been full long ago. Every day the papers tell of a lad, or two or three lads, that have been sent there from Lincoln, and if other towns do as this there must be several thousand unruly kinds somewhere in that country.”
        Many county judges are lax in this respect and will send boys to the school who should be kept home by parents who are too ready to shirk the responsibility of their keeping and moral training.
        Yet the school is mostly filled with incorrigibles – not waifs and street arabs, but sons of Christian parents, business men and politicians, well-to-do mechanics and other good people who should apparently be able to bring up their children properly.
        The question is a serious one.
        The state is handling it as well as it is possible to handle it in a public institution, and the Nebraska industrial reform school is a model of its class, yet it must be evident to honest, earnest, thoughtful people the root of the evil is in the home or with the father or mother not suited for the most sacred trust reposed in man on earth – the rearing of a child.


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