Flag Day, Observed June 14, Originated Ben Altheimer, Jewish Philanthropist, in 1910

Flag day, which was celebrated yesterday, June 14, throughout the United States with patriotic exercises, was originated by Ben Altheimer, eighty-one year old foreign-born Jewish philanthropist. Mr. Altheimer in 1910 conceived the idea of setting aside a special day as Flag Day while attending a retreat formation at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, with which ceremony he became so impressed that he decided to devote his attention toward popularizing Flag Day and other patriotic demonstrations. He started the movement in St. Louis, where he lived at that time, and from where it spread to other cities. Flag Day was made a national holiday by President Wilson in 1916.

In describing Mr. Altheimer, who was born in Germany, the current issue of the “New Yorker” says:

“He came to America as a young man, plunged into banking and brokerage out in St. Louis and, in no time, made millions of dollars. His gratitude for the quick success that he, a foreign-born Jew, had in a strange country, took the form of philanthropy and patriotism. He gave to hospitals, founded libraries, aided government projects, financed charities, led off campaigns for the relief of victims of fire, flood, war and unemployment. Always in his mind, however, there lurked a desire to do something for America in a big way. The incident at San Antonio was his inspiration. A great reader of our history, he knew (or if he didn’t, he looked it up) that June 14 was the day on which Congress accepted Betsy Ross’ flag. Then, with the same spirit and gusto that had put over charitable campaigns, he started the drive to interest the nation in its flag.

“Mr. Altheimer spends most of his time at the Harmonie Club, 4 East Sixtieth Street. His day is a calm and pleasant one—morning paper, lunch, a nap under a Persian fleece blanket, tea with schmeckchen, and so on. He is slight, but erect and rather distinguished looking, with a Biblical nose and a patriarchal white beard. He talks a great deal, still with a German accent. He likes slogans and mottoes of an inspirational nature. He has spoken at hundreds of banquets on patriotic themes, and a flood of oratory urges to his lips in response to a catchword. His has been a full life and a worthy one. If you grumble about getting the flag out of the attic and hanging it up, you are not the patriot that Benjamin Altheimer is.”

NEXT STORY