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The History of The Flag of the United States

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 5 8

Celebrate June 14 - Flag Day

The Flag of the United States symbolizes many years of hard work, entrepreneurship, foresight, fortitude, sacrifice, strength, tears, joy, pride, and love of Country. Beginning with those first settlers who landed on the shores of this Country, up to the current military personal who are serving to protect this great land, they willingly risked it all to make this Country a better place.


Current Flag of the United States
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

So, when you look at the American Flag, picture those three ships: the Discovery, Godspeed, and the Susan Constant that landed in Jamestown, the Founding Fathers, and all the immigrants who came looking for freedom, and a better way of life. Using their God given talents, these immigrants worked hard, became citizens, and built this Country. Hardships build character and strength, and these difficult times, too, should be remembered when looking at the Flag. Think about the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, Pearl Harbor and World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the horror of 9/11, and the War on Terror. Instead of falling under the pressure of these tribulations, the Nation’s people, represented by this glorious Flag, rallied together and stood tall.


The Evolution of The Flag of the United States

The First United States Flag

Grand Union Flag
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Grand_Union_Flag.svg

One of the earliest flags used by the Colonists was the Grand Union Flag, a.k.a., the Continental Colors, the Congress Colors, the Congress Flag, the First Navy Ensign, and the Cambridge Flag. This Flag was designed and made using the thirteen red and white stripes that we use today, but in the upper left corner, the British Union Flag was inserted. Its use has been documented as early as December 3, 1775.[3981] However, as the conflict with Great Britain grew, and the new government was being created, it was recognized that a new Flag was also needed.


Flag Act of 1777

13-Star Flag of the United States
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_flag_13_stars.svg

The Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, passed The Flag Act of 1777, on June 14, 1777.

"Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."[3982]

The thirteen stripes and stars represented the thirteen original Colonies. These same Colonies became the first states of the United States:

Delaware (1st State, December 7, 1787)

Pennsylvania (2nd State, December 12, 1787)

New Jersey (3rd State, December 18, 1787)

Georgia (4th State, January 2, 1788)

Connecticut (5th State, January 9, 1788)

Massachusetts (6th State, February 6, 1788)

Maryland (7th State, April 28, 1788)

South Carolina (8th State, May 23, 1788)

New Hampshire (9th State, June 21, 1788)

Virginia (10th State, June 25, 1788)

New York (11th State, July 26, 1788)

North Carolina (12th State, November 21, 1789)

Rhode Island (13th State, May 29, 1790).

Since the description of the Flag was not completely detailed, several different Flags were designed. All of them included the 13 red and white stripes, but different Flag makers presented the blue field differently. These Flags were used until 1795. This Flag is also known as the13-Star Flag.

Collectors’ Plate Showing 13-Star Betsy Ross Designed Flag

We have all heard the story of how Betsy Ross made the first U. S. Flag. However, there is no documentation to prove this legend.






Flag Act 1794

Star Spangled Banner Flag of the United States of America
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_flag_15_stars.svg

On January 13, 1794, President George Washington signed the Flag Act that would change the 13-Star and 13-Stripe Flag to a 15-Star and 15-Stripe Flag, to take affect on May 1, 1795. The change in design was done to include Vermont (14th State, March 4, 1791) and Kentucky (15th State, June 1, 1792), who had both joined the Union. This design would be used until April 4, 1818, marking nearly twenty-three years of service and is referred to as the 15-Star Flag.

Another name is the Star Spangled Banner Flag:

The Star Spangled Banner Flag is the name for the American flag with 15 stars and stripes. It got the name because this is the flag that was flying at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that Francis Scott Key saw when he wrote the poem "Defense of Fort McHenry." He put it to the music of a familiar tune and it later became known as the "Star Spangled Banner," America's National Anthem. The original Star Spangled Banner Flag that flew over Fort McHenry still exists and can be viewed at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.[3984]

Star Spangled Banner Flag – From the War of 1812

Unlike the first United States Flag, there is documentation proving Mary Young Pickersgill made the actual Star Spangled Banner Flag that flew over Fort McHenry.[3984]






http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fort_McHenry_flag.jpg


Flag Act of 1818

20-Star Flag of the United States of America
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_flag_20_stars.svg

On April 4, 1818, President Monroe signed another Flag Act, re-establishing the 13-Stripe Flag with one star in the blue field for each State in the Union. As new States joined the Union, a star would be added to the field on the 4th of July after their admission. With these changes, four states were added:

Tennessee (16th State, June 1, 1796)

Ohio (17th State, March 1, 1803)

Louisiana (18th State, April 30, 1812)

Indiana (19th State, December 11, 1816)

Mississippi (20th State, December 10, 1817)

All these States had stars added to the blue field. This Flag became known as the 20-Star Flag.


As the Country Grew, So Did the Number of Stars on The Flag of the United States

The following list includes the evolution of the Flag as States joined the Union. All of these changes became effective on July 4, after their admission as a State.


Flag Revisions by State Admission

21-Star    Illinois (21st State, December 3, 1818)

23-Star    Alabama (22nd State, December 14,1819)

                  Maine (23rd State, March 15, 1820)

24-Star    Missouri (24th State, August 10, 1821)

25-Star    Arkansas (25th State, June 15, 1836)

26-Star    Michigan (26th State, January 26, 1837)

27-Star    Florida (27th State, March 3, 1845)

28-Star    Texas (28th State, December 29, 1845)

29-Star    Iowa (29th State, December 28, 1846)

30-Star    Wisconsin (30th State, May 29, 1848)

31-Star    California (31st State, September 9, 1850)

32-Star    Minnesota (32nd State, May 11, 1858)

33-Star    Oregon (33rd State, February 14, 1859)

34-Star    Kansas (34th State, January 29, 1861)

35-Star    West Virginia (35th State, June 20, 1863)

36-Star    Nevada (36th State, October 31, 1864)

37-Star    Nebraska (37th State, March 1, 1867)

38-Star    Colorado (38th State, August 1, 1876)

43-Star    North Dakota (39th State, November 2, 1889)

                 South Dakota (40th State, November 2, 1889)

                 Montana (41st State, November 8, 1889)

                 Washington (42nd State, November 11, 1889)

                 Idaho (43rd State, July 3, 1890)

44-Star    Wyoming (44th State, July 10, 1890)

45-Star    Utah (45th State, January 4, 1896)

46-Star    Oklahoma (46th State, November 16, 1907)

48-Star    New Mexico (47th State, January 6, 1912)

                  Arizona (48th State, February 14, 1912)

Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 - established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.”[3985]

Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.”[3985]

49-Star   Alaska (49th State, January 3, 1959)

Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizontally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.”[3985]

50-Star   Hawaii (50th State, August 21, 1959)



In Closing

Fly Your Flag of the United States of America with Pride

Don’t forget to circle June 14th – Flag Day – on your your calendar, so you and your family can join in the celebration. This “Grand Old Flag” goes by many names: American Stars and Stripes, Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, Stars and Bars, Red White and Blue, Star Spangled Banner Flag, or the American Flag. After exploring the history of the Flag of the United States, I hope you will be inspired to purchase a Flag pole and a Flag to display at your home. This is a good family project, and a great way to talk about the freedom we enjoy in the U. S. A., how it was won, and how it is protected today. And the next time you see one of our valiant veterans, or a current member of our military, walk up to him or her, and say 'thank you'!

Let's all stand to face the Flag, place our right hand over our heart, and say The Pledge of Allegiance together. (Don't forget to remove your hat, if you are wearing one.)

I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Resources:

www.usa-flag-site.org

www.usflag.org

www.gpo.gov

www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmah/flag.htm


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Comments

May 31, 2012 9:47pm
vicdillinger
Thank you for pointing up the Betsy Ross fallacy -- it was her grandson who started that untruth many years after she was dead in order to capitalize on her homestead (he thought it had some value, but really it had none until he made up the lie about her "sewing the first flag". Never happened).

A thumb.
Jun 18, 2012 11:29am
southerngirl09
Thanks, Vic, for the read and comment! The Betsy Ross story is sweet, but unfortunately, as you said, untrue. I haven't decided whether to write an article on it or not. I appreciate the thumb!
Jun 18, 2012 11:44am
vicdillinger
Personally, I wouldn't waste the time on the Ross story as it has no merit (sort of like writing about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, also a lie). You did well just getting the real story out here, though.
Jun 18, 2012 1:11pm
southerngirl09
I think you are right! Thanks for your help.
Jun 19, 2012 2:52am
mommymommymommy
What a great article on the history of our nation's flag! If people knew the truth about the flag, visitors to the Betsy Ross House in Philly might decrease, even though it is a great historical landmark.
Jun 19, 2012 2:32pm
southerngirl09
Thanks for reading and commenting on my article. You are right, there would be less visitors to the Betsy Ross House if more people realized and accepted the fact that she did not make our first flag. Many years ago, when our daughter was small, and we visited Philly, it was one of our stops, too. It is a good story though.
Jun 22, 2012 7:13am
Jack_Luca
Great history lesson on the flag. The US flag that really stands out to me is the 9/11 flag -- very sad, but it epitomizes the resilience of the people. Torn and tattered and yet still rises to greatness.
Feb 23, 2013 10:39am
southerngirl09
I agree - the 9/11 flag says what this country is all about. I also like the flag picture at Iwo Jima.
I appreciate the read and the comment!
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Bibliography

  1. "Our Flag." United States Government Printing Office. 31/05/2012 <Web >
  2. "History of American Flag." USA Flag Site. 31/05/2012 <Web >
  3. "Star Spangled Banner Flag." Revolutionary War and Beyond. 31/05/2012 <Web >
  4. "Facts about the United States Flag." Encyclopedia Smithsonian. 31/05/2012 <Web >

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