The American flag has a story as rich as our country’s history. For over 200 years, the “red, white, and blue” has flown respectfully and stands tall in our horizon as an internationally known symbol. It can be found everywhere in buildings, homes, streets and classrooms. The flag has changed in its physical attributes symbolic to America’s timeline and evolution. We look to the flag as a symbol of unity, freedom, justice, and hope. Our flag has marched with us through two World Wars, depressions, and crises. It has flown with honor in times of joy and achievements. The flag still prevails today with a stronger sense of hope and pride as it was found, tattered but still bearing our colors, flying above the ashes of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The changes are great from the 1776 Betsy Ross Original flag of 13 stars and stripes to the current flag we know with 50 stars and 13 stripes. The stripes alternate red and white and are symbolic of the original 13 colonies. Red is chosen to symbolize hardiness and valor. White is symbolic of purity and innocence. The stars represent the 50 states of the Union and lie on a blue background that is symbolic of vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
It remains a mystery as to who really designed the first flag. Historians think Francis Hopkinson designed the original flag while legend says Betsy Ross made the design. She is unmistakably the seamstress of the first American flag in May of 1776 so legend tends to give her the credit. On June 14, 1777, the Flag Resolution of 1777 was passed by the Second Continental Congress that made the Betsy Ross flag our official flag and is now celebrated annually as Flag Day. In 1812, Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” while the flag flew over Fort McHenry. This would later become America’s national anthem.
For a time, the flag evolved into 15 stars and stripes, but was changed in April of 1818 when President James Monroe stated there would be 13 stripes and a star representing each state. After new states were admitted into the Union, their star would be added on the following Independence Day. Periodically the flag changed in the star section composition until 1960 when our 50th state of Hawaii was added to give us today’s American flag. This flag climbed Mount Everest with Barry Bishop in 1963 and traveled to the moon with Neil Armstrong in 1969.
The first flag that carried American troops to battle was the 28 star flag in 1846 during the Mexican-American war. America defeated Mexico and gained much of the Southwestern region states. After the end of the Civil War, in 1865, at the Ford Theatre, a 38 star American flag was used to cushion President Lincoln’s head on the evening of his assassination, three months before the new flag was made official. From 1912-1959, the 48 star flag had survived two World Wars and was the longest serving flag, of 47 years, until it was succeeded by our current 50 star flag which has proudly served our country from 1960 until the present.
Another fun fact you may not have known is that Robert G. Heft designed the 50 star flag as a school project when he predicted the last states were to be joining the Union. He received a grade of a B- on the project and his teacher commented of his lack of creativity and that he could receive a higher grade if the flag was approved by Congress. Mr. Heft then sent his design to Congress and was chosen by President Eisenhower to be the official flag that still flies high everywhere across America today. “Old Glory” still stands tall and prevails, growing, changing, and becoming an even bigger sense of pride to Americans today after it’s reign over the 9/11 rubble. God Bless America, Home of the free and the Brave!
Pictorial flag timeline and facts Independence Hall Foundation
Evolution of the American Flag – US Flag Store
Symbolism found at USA Flag Site
History of the American Flag- kyrene.org
About.com- American Flag History