History of the American Flag


History of the American Flag

To all American citizens, the U.S. flag is instantly recognizable. During grade school, we rose every day to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. It flies over many government buildings, hangs behind our presidents as they make speeches, and is present for graduation ceremonies. Not to mention, many households fly Old Glory, and the Stars and Stripes are flown on nationally recognized holidays.

It’s safe to say, most people see our flag every day.  Yet, how many people know the history and significance of our nation’s flag? Do you know why red, white, and blue were the chosen colors? Do you know how the original design looked? Who made the first American flag? Below we answer all your questions and give you a brief history of the U.S. flag, from the very beginning to modern day.

The Early Days

The history of our flag is, in keeping with American tradition, filled with interesting facts and legends, as it has survived battles and inspired songs. Just like our country, it has changed and expanded since the beginning. Let’s start with Flag Day. On August 3, 1949, President Harry S. Truman declared June 14th as Flag Day. But, do you know why?  

That same day, in 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act that gave our nation an official flag. In those days, the flag was not as we know it today. Instead of the 50 white stars in the field of blue, there was a circle of 13 white stars to represent the 13 colonies. The act stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

Where did this design originate from exactly? While the exact origin of the American flag is unknown, some historians believe that it was designed by New Jersey congressman Francis Hopkins. Betsy Ross, who is often the name we think of when we think of the original flag, was the seamstress for Old Glory. The first U.S. flag was sewn by Ross in Philadelphia.

Speaking of Old Glory, the nickname that is now given to all American flags was the self-given nickname of the flag of William Driver, a sea captain from Massachusetts, due to its enormous size. The original Old Glory was a 10-by-17-foot flag. More interestingly, though: That same flag was said to have survived various attempts to deface it during the Civil War. Once the war ended, Driver flew the flag over the Tennessee Statehouse.

As you know, the nation rapidly expanded from the original 13 colonies. Between its birth year of 1777 and 1960, the flag underwent many changes. Congress passed multiple acts that noted the change of shape, design, and arrangement of our flag. Stars and stripes were added to represent the additions of new states.

The Flag as We Know It

Currently, our flag has 13 stripes, consisting of seven red stripes alternating with six white ones, to represent the original colonies. Meanwhile, the white stars represent the 50 states in the Union. Most people do remember this from school, but what is less common knowledge is the symbolism of the colors.

Red is used to represent hardiness and valor. White is used to symbolize purity; meanwhile, blue is used to represent vigilance, perseverance, and justice, all of which are believed to embody our nation and what it stands for.

The Importance of Our Flag

While the American flag has been around for 300 years or so, the origin of flags and banners themselves dates back to ancient history. Since flags are simple (and cheap) to make, and easy to carry and display, they were the superior choice for decorative and ceremonial images.

In ancient times, as well as modern times, flags stood to symbolize various communities, leaders, gods, merchants, ships, and towns. Not to mention, flags have long symbolized different religions and religious leaders. The flag gained respect for the person or country it represented.

In times of battle, your flag and the opponent’s flag are huge symbols with heavy meanings. In battle, the loss of a flag is devastating, while the capture of an opponent’s flag often serves as the turning point in a battle.

So, you can see that flags have always represented, and still  represent an idea or ideal. Held in high esteem due to history and tradition, the respect of one’s flag is patriotic. When we fly and hang our flag, it is out of pride for our country and what it represents.

The Takeaway

It’s important to know our flag’s history. When we have an understanding of where our flag came from and what makes flags so significant in our culture, we think pride deepens. So, demonstrate your patriotism by showing off a quality, American-made U.S. flag. It will mean so much more, now that you understand its history and story.

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