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Historical Flags

Historical Flags

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Historical American Flags

If we don't study history, we are destined to repeat it. Each historical flag of the United States holds its own merits and reasons for existence. While we may not necessarily agree with some of those reasons or symbolism today, their value is still warranted as a part of this country and how far we have come as a people and as a nation. 

With our first official flag coming into view in 1777, the "Betsy Ross Flag," didn't look so different from the flag we have today. It featured the same 13 alternating red and white stripes with a blue canton and had 13 white five-point stars arranged in a circle within that. Since then, the United States has gone through several other flag designs, each with its own symbolism and historical significance. Our current flag shares the same stripe format and canton, but with 50 stars in the blue field, each star representative of the number of states in the Union.

The Grand Union Flag

Before the "Betsy Ross Flag," another was used as a placeholder of sorts and was known most famously as the "Grand Union Flag." This flag still had the 13 alternating red and white stripes representative of the original 13 colonies but with a Union Jack in the canton (the national flag of the United Kingdom), representing loyalty to the British Empire. George Washington would raise this flag on New Year's Day at Prospect Hill of Charleston, MA in 1776 to celebrate the newfound formation of the Continental Army. Other names that the Grand Union Flag was known by were "The Continental Colors," "Cambridge Flag," as well as the "First Navy Ensign." It should be noted that there was confusion as to why this flag was even used in the first place considering the agitation and issues going on between the colonies and the United Kingdom during this time. 

If you are interested in owning your own Grand Union Flag, we have a couple of options available. From a 4-inch by 6-inch handheld stick flag and a 3ft by 5ft Printed Polyester Flag, both are from Super Tough and are imported.

The Betsy Ross Flag

The Betsy Ross Flag would be the first to officially represent the newly independent country of the United States of America. The Union Jack in the canton as seen with the Grand Union Flag would be replaced with the more familiar blue field and 13 five-point stars in a circle representing the states in the union. The 13 red and white stripes would remain an homage to the original 13 colonies.

There is debate as to whether Betsy Ross had any actual involvement with the making of the flag. It is said that the first we hear on the subject as to whether the Philidelphia seamstress designed and sewn the flag happened 30-plus years after her passing with no writing to verify prior. If you are interested in learning more about this subject be sure to check out our articles on The First American Flag (Betsy Ross Flag), and our Betsy Ross Flag landing page. 

The Betsy Ross flag would serve from 1777-1795 and is a powerful symbol of a newly formed nation, and the struggles faced for independence and unity. And while her involvement is speculated by historians, there is no denying that Betsy Ross has still managed to sew her way into American history. 

The Gadsden Flag 

The Gadsden Flag is another historical American flag that features a yellow field with a coiled timber rattlesnake and the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me”. It was designed by American general and statesman Christopher Gadsden in 1775. The imagery of the rattlesnake was used both as an example of an animal that was found only in the new world and to also remind the British to watch how they were treating their American subjects as they would be prepared to respond accordingly. This flag has a strong association with the American Revolution as it was used by the Continental Marines as an ensign during this time. It is still used as a symbol of American patriotism today and is often flown at rallies and protests. 

One of our more popular flags on the site with a 4.8-star customer rating, our Gadsden Don't Tread On Me 3ft by 5ft Nylon Flag is a great choice for the history buff who wants an iconic piece in their collection. This is made of heavyweight nylon and is 100% made in the United States by Valley Forge. 

Historical Pirate Flags

The pirate flags of the 17th and 18th centuries were a symbol of the freedom and rebelliousness associated with the pirate lifestyle. These were usually black or red flags that often featured symbols such as skulls, crossbones, and crossed swords. The most iconic pirate flag of them all was the Jolly Roger, which featured a white skull and crossbones on a black background. This flag is still used today, although mostly by those who embody the idea of piracy and fancy themselves rebels. Other flags often featured a red field with a white skeleton or a red field with a white skull. These flags were used primarily to intimidate enemies into an easy surrender and to communicate their identity to other pirates. Pirates would often fly their flags when approaching an enemy vessel, and the sight of which would usually be enough to send their enemies fleeing in terror. These historical pirate flags remain symbols of the rebellious spirit of the pirate lifestyle. You can check out our collection of Pirate Flags, here. 

Military Flags

We also have a great selection of Military and Public Service Flags available. From the United States Army, both classic and modern designs, to the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps., Coast Guard, and even the newly created Space Force division. 

For Other USA Flags

If you are interested in the standard American Flag, you better believe we have those as well. We carry products from some of the top manufacturers in the world including Annin Flagmakers, Valley Forge Flag Company, and our very own brand Super Tough. No matter which one you pick, you are going to love your stars and stripes. 

Flags of the World, From Australia and England to Germany and Mexico

And if you need to round out your flag collection, you can check out our Flags of the World. We carry flags from over 230 different countries, from Australia and England to Germany and Mexico.

What is the oldest American flag?

The oldest American flag is the Grand Union Flag, which was adopted on January 1, 1776, by the Continental Army and Navy and was used until the adoption of the Stars and Stripes flag in 1777. The flag featured thirteen alternating red and white stripes, representing the thirteen original colonies, and a Union Jack in the canton, representing loyalty to the British Empire.

Where to buy historical flags?

The United States Flag Store is your one-stop, premier spot for all things flag and flag-related items with our historical flags right at the top of the list. 

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