American Flag History
The Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, The American Flag – no matter which name you use, is a powerful symbol of the United States of America. Its history is long and fascinating, much like that of our country. The US Flag is comprised of 13 horizontal stripes of alternating red and white with a Union in the upper left corner made of a blue background that holds 50 small white stars set in symmetrical rows. The 50 stars represent the 50 states of the United States and the 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies, or states.
The US flag has gone though several iterations throughout its long history. In fact, there have been 26 changes to the flag since it was first adopted by the United States Congress after signing the Declaration of Independence. Now, and throughout the history of the US, when the design of the flag changes, the change must always be made on Independence Day, July 4, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The most recent change to the US flag was made in 1960 after Hawaii gained statehood.
Before the Revolutionary war, many people flew flags of red, white and blue and it is believed that the stripes flown on many flags inspired those that we see on the American Flag today.
Originally, the flag combined the tradition of those red and white stripes, 13 in total to represent the 13 states, with the British Union Jack, creating what was called the “Grand Union Flag” that was flown by George Washington over his headquarters in Boston on Prospect hill on New Years Day in 1776.
The Bennington Flag, which has maintained historic popularity, was a version of the US flag used at the Battle of Bennington in August of 1777. This was said to be the first flag to lead the US Army into battle in Bennington, Vermont.
The second version of the US flag was introduced in 1777 on June 14th which is now known as Flag Day. A Flag Resolution was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on that day that stated, "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." This new flag is often represented as the 13 red and white stripes with a blue union dotted with 13 stars in a circular pattern. The resolution did not identify specifically how the stars should be laid out on the Union but the circular pattern was popular until more stars were added making the horizontal arrangement of today more aesthetic. This flag is also often known as the Betsy Ross Flag.
As the Union became larger, the addition of stripes and stars began to pose a problem. At that point, the Congress changed the American Flag resolution so that when a state entered the Union, a star would be added while the original 13 red and white stripes remained as a tribute to those original 13 states in the Union. For a short time there was a 15 Stripe and 15 Star Flag that was the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the "Star Spangled Banner."
As noted, the US flag that flies today was introduced in 1960 after Hawaii attained statehood in 1959. There was briefly a 49 star flag after Alaska joined the Union but before Hawaii. The US Flag is a symbol of pride for everyone in the US and its fascinating history and symbolism resonate with everyone in the United States today.