The American Flag

The History of The American Flag

There are very few things as representative of America as the stars and stripes.  The American flag is featured throughout American culture and government.  Uncle Sam is even depicted as wearing the flag.  While the American flag is such a big part of American culture, not many people know where it came from or its history.  Keep reading to find out the story behind Old Glory.

What The Flag Represents

The American flag isn’t just an image that was drummed up for the United States, each piece represents something.  The red and white stripes represent the 13 colonies of the original United States.  The stars now represent the 50 states of America.  Red was chosen for valor and white for purity.  Finally, the blue is the symbol of justice and vigilance, two of America’s core values.  The flag was not always this way, though, it started out different and has gone through many changes.


Before there was an official flag, the United States had many unofficial symbols of its statehood.  In 1775 there were at least five different flags used across the Union.  These include:

  • Continental Navy Flag
  • Forster Flag
  • Liberty Tree Flag
  • New England Flag
  • Son of Liberty Flag

The stars and stripes became the American flag in 1777 when the Continental Congress voted an act into place that established a flag.  This flag was to have thirteen stripes that alternate both red and white.  It should also have thirteen white stars to represent the union upon a field of blue.  There was no specific order for the stars to be in on the flag and as such, there was still room for interpretation.

Betsy Ross is popularly believed to be the make of the first American flag after the Continental Congress’s decree.  It featured the thirteen stripes and a circle of thirteen stars on a blue background.  While there was an official stance on the flag, there were still many different versions made after 1777.

Between 1794 and 1818 the flag had 15 stripes.  This decision was made to allow the stars and stripes to have the same number.  After 1818, the flag went back to have 13 stripes.

Old Glory

Old Glory is one the many nicknames that the American flag has earned but it is also one of the most popular.  Where did this nickname come from?  It comes from a ship captain with the name William Driver.  Captain Driver flew the flag on his boat and was named Old Glory.  The flag was large, 10 by 17 feet.

During the Civil War, multiple tries were made to deface the flag.  Once he stopped flying the flag on his ship, it hung from the Tennessee Statehouse.  It is now housed at the National Museum of American History.

Changes Over Time

Over time, The United States Congress authorized changes to the American flag.  The last change was authorized in 1960 after Hawaii became an official state.  Most of the changes were to authorization the addition of stars for new states as they were incorporated.

Interesting Facts

You might be interested to know these facts about the American flag.

  • In 1805 the American flag was flown at a fort on foreign soil for the first time. That fort was Fort Derne in Libya.
  • The Pledge of Allegiance was first created in 1892, The writers took their inspiration from the flag.
  • One of the flags from the world trade center was found partially intact and served as an inspiration for those working at the sites after the terrorist attack.
  • R. 42 from U.S. Congress prevents any apartment or condominium complex from disallowing flying of the America flag.
  • The most recent design of the American flag (50 stars) was designed by a high school student, not a government body.
  • There is a whole set of guidelines just for the flag, this is called The Flag Code.
  • According to the United States Army, older versions of the flag are not prohibited from being displayed.

The American flag has undergone a lot of changes over the years.  Now we fly a commonly accepted version of the flag that was designed by a high schooler.  This speaks of a rich history of a country that is still developing.  Now that you know more about the history of the American flag, you can share it with your friends.

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Templar Knight

Templar Knight

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