History of the American Flag

History of the American Flag

The Grand Union Flag

The American flag is no stranger to its own evolution. The flag itself has seen approximately 28 different versions, Although, this first flag we are going to discuss technically didn't represent the literal United States, I believe that it still holds merit and its place among the history of the American flag. The United States had yet to declare its independence during some of this flag's tenure, but this would still be representative of what would soon become the United States. I am of course talking about what was known as the Grand Union Flag. This flag saw the 13 red and white alternating stripes that we all know today, but with a Union Jack in the upper left corner or canton where the modern-day blue union is located. The Union Jack was and is the national flag of the United Kingdom and there was even confusion as to why it would have been used in the first place, considering the obvious tensions and troubles going on between the colonies and their British overlords. This flag was raised on New Year's Day by George Washington on Prospect Hill in Charleston, MA in 1776 to celebrate the newfound formation of the Continental Army. The Grand Union flag is also known as "The Continental Colors," "Cambridge Flag," as well as the "First Navy Ensign." The 13 stripes would stand for the 13 colonies, while it is speculated that the Union Jack was a sign of loyalty to the United Kingdom.

Original American Flag

The next iteration of the American flag would be what is commonly referred to as the Betsy Ross flag. This would be the first flag to officially represent the newly declared United States of America, replacing the Union Jack in the canton with the familiar blue field encompassing 13 five-point stars in a circle. This was done while keeping the 13 red and white stripes, both respectively would represent the states in the union and their roots as the original 13 colonies. The history around this flag in particular is shrouded in mystery and controversy. Betsy Ross and her literal involvement with this flag has been a highly debated and conversed subject within the historical community. Considering the first lore we have heard of the subject was posthumously spoken 30 plus years after Ross's death, actual documentation is nowhere to be found. We have a couple articles that go into depth a little bit more, The First American Flag (Betsy Ross Flag), and our Betsy Ross Flag landing page. The Betsy Ross flag would serve from 1777-1795.

Oh, Say Can You See?

The American Flag would take on the role of Star-Spangled Banner for its third adoption. This version would see 15 alternating red and white stripes with 15 stars in the blue field. The addition of stars and stripes was to represent the addition of Kentucky and Vermont into the union. The Star-Spangled Banner would inspire the famous poem by the same name that would later be adopted into the national anthem, for a little more history on the Star-Spangled Banner and the original poem click here. The Star-Spangled Banner can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Various American Flag Designs

Designs of the American Flag wouldn't vary too much over the rest of its existence with exception of the following flag and the addition of stars to each new variation correlating to the inclusion of new states coming into the union.

The Great Star Flag or Flag of 1818 would follow the Star-Spangled Banner and would see its stripe design revert back to the original 13 red and white stripes with 20 stars in its canton. This was designed by Navy Captain Samuel Reid with the additional stars to represent Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi.

The 24-star flag would earn the nickname "Old Glory," from shipmaster Captain William Driver. The 24-Star flag would wave from 1822-1836.

Michigan would see its star added to the 26-star flag in 1837. U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes would lead the first American expedition to explore Antarctica under this flag.

The 28-star flag would see Texas annexed, generating the Mexican American War.

The Civil War started under the 33-star American flag and would end under the 35-star flag. During this time, approximately 1861 to 1865, Flags of the Confederate United States, 11 states that succeeded from the union would show up such as the "Stars and Bars," which featured three stripes total, two red and one white, with a blue field containing nine stars.

The final states admitted into the Union were Alaska and Hawaii giving us the 49-star flag and the most recent version we all know, the 50-star flag.

American Flag FAQ

Stars and Stripes Meaning

The stars and stripes have long stood for what they have since the flag's creation. The stars in the blue field or union have always stood for the states in the union, while the 13 stripes invocative of the original 13 colonies that would eventually become the United States.

How Many Stars Are on the American Flag?

The current version of the American Flag has 50 stars.

How Many Stripes Are on the American Flag?

There are 13 red and white alternating stripes on the American Flag.

What Do the Colors of the American Flag Mean?

The colors of the American flag have been said to mean red for hardiness and valor, white for purity and innocence, while the blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice. The colors can very well mean or have meant something else, but this is the most accepted and common belief on them.

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