The Flag of the United States of America is
one of the oldest of the national standards of the world; older than
the Union Jack of Great Britain or the Tricolor of France. The
thirteen stripes on the flag, represent each of the original
thirteen colonies. Each star represents a state in the union. Fifty
states, fifty stars on our present day flag.
There are three
different colors that are represented in the flag. Red, for the
blood shed creating the new nation. Blue, for the ocean that had to
be crossed to reach this great land. White, for the purity of it's
government. The flag when stored, is folded in a triangular shape,
to represent the tri-cornered hats worn by the settlers at the time
of its creation.
During the early days of the Revolutionary War a
variety of flags were used by the different colonies and military
commands. Prominent among these were the "Pine Tree" and "Rattlesnake"
flags with various arrangements and mottoes.
Late in 1775 a committee of Congress with Benjamin Franklin at the
head, after consulting with Washington, then in command of the army
at Cambridge, decided upon the form of a new flag. This flag
consisted of thirteen stripes red and white, with the cross of St.
George and St. Andrew on a blue field in the canton or union. This
preceded the Declaration of Independence and indicated that the
colonies had not wholly broken from the mother country. This flag
was first unfurled by Washington, January 2, 1776. It was probably
this flag which was raised by Paul Jones on his vessel and carried
by the American fleet which sailed out of Philadelphia in February
During 1776 and 1777 a number of flags with thirteen stripes came
into use and the need of a definite national emblem was realized. On
June 14, 1777, Congress passed an act stating "That the Flag of
the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternating red and
white, that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field,
representing a new constellation." This is the birthday of the
Flag as we now know it and June 14 is now celebrated as "Flag
Day." This new flag was probably first displayed on land during
the Battle at Fort Stanwix, New York, although there are a number of
authorities who claim that the first Stars and Stripes displayed in
battle was at the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, August 16th, 1777.
At any rate, this flag, as displayed, remained the national standard
until 1795. The first display of the Stars and Stripes by the
Continental Army was when the Flag was hoisted over Fort Stanwix,
New York, on August 3, 1777.
In the meantime Vermont and Kentucky had become states, and on
January 13, 1794, Congress voted that the Flag should have fifteen
stripes and fifteen stars. This Flag remained in use for
twenty-three years, and it was "The Star Spangled Banner"
of which Francis Scott Key wrote in 1814.
In April 1818, Congress passed an act providing that the Flag
should have thirteen horizontal stripes, alternating red and white,
and that the union should display twenty stars, representing the
number of states in the Union. It also provided that on the
admission of every new state to the Union a star should be added on
the following July 4th and this has been the regulation ever since,
accounting for the number of stars now shown.
1959 was the last year that stars were added to the flag.
One for Hawaii, and one for Alaska.