Bernard J. Cigrand (from the French “CiGrand” meaning “so great”)
was born on Yankee Hill in Waubeka, Wisconsin on October 1, 1866.
He was the youngest of six children of Nicholas and Susan Cigrand
who had settled and married here a decade earlier after immigrating
to this country from Luxembourg in Northwestern Europe. A look at
CiGrand’s Family give us insight into the background that prepared
the son for a lifetime of achievement.
As a youth, young Cigrand sold scrap iron and rags to buy books. At
12 he worked as a sales agent for the U S Book and Bible Club earning
25 cents for each book he sold. He was a conductor on a steam
barge on the Milwaukee River in the Waubeka area.
Inspired by his father, young Cigrand displayed an early interest in
American history. He was a devout patriot with a great love of the
flag of our nation.
Cigrand earned $40.00/month teaching school at Stony Hill and with
income from selling books was able to pay his way through dental
school. In 1888, he graduated first in his class from Lake Forest
College of Dentistry.
He was one of the contributing editors of the Encyclopedia Americana.
One of his items was “The Recognition and Meaning of Flag Day”
He wrote a widely distributed pamphlet on “Laws and Customs
Regulating the use of the Flag of the United States.”
Some of the books he wrote are:
“Story of the American Flag” Profusely illustrated.
“The Real Abraham Lincoln”
“The Life of Alexander Hamilton”
“The Real Robert Morris” (A Pennsylvania banker known as “the
financier of the American Revolution.”)
“Story of the Great Seal of the United States.”
“History of American Emblems”
“The History of American Heraldry”
Bernard J. Cigrand was first and foremost an American patriot. From the
1880s through the 1930s, he preached respect and honor for the nation
and its flag.
In 1885, however, Cigrand still a teenager and only at the beginning of his
journey. He entered dental college later that year, mixing his professional
studies with the promotion of the flag.
In June 1886 he made his first public proposal for the annual observance
of the birth of the flag when he wrote an article titled “The Fourteenth of
June” in the old Chicago Argus newspaper.
In June of 1888, at the same time he was graduating first in his class from
dental college, Cigrand addressed a Chicago organization known as the
“Sons of America”. In his speech he emphasized the good that would
come from a flag holiday. In response, the organization undertook to publish
a magazine called the “American Standard” to inculcate reverence for
American emblems, and appointed Cigrand its editor-in-chief. Cigrand’s
articles in this magazine helped direct public attention to the Flag and the
date of its birth.
In the years that followed, Cigrand authored hundreds of other magazine
and newspaper articles advocating recognition of the June 14th adoption
of the Stars and Stripes.
In the third Saturday in June, 1894, , the first general public school
children’s celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held in Douglas,
Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks, with more than
300,000 children participating. These observances were held in the
five parks again the next year, also on the third Saturday of June.
In the years that followed, 36 Governors, scores of mayors and five
Presidents of the United States sent delegates and credentials agreeing
that Flag Day should be observed in all states of the Union on the actual
June 14 anniversary of the adoption of the flag .By 1916 flag ceremonies
on June 14 had become so prevalent that President Woodrow Wilson
issued a proclamation establishing Flag Day as an annual national event.
Cigrand died of a sudden heart attack on 16 May 1932
President Harry S. Truman signed the legislation in 1949 and June 14th
was properly designated Flag Day. On June 14th, 2004, the 108th U.S.
Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in
Ozaukee County, Waubeka Wisconsin, 60 years after Truman.
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