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The United States Of America Flag

In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777. The June 14 date is also when Congress adopted "the American continental army" after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole.

Since 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation establishing a national Flag Day on June 14, Americans have commemorated the adoption of the Stars and Stripes by celebrating June 14 as Flag Day. Prior to 1916, many localities and a few states had been celebrating the day for years. Congressional legislation designating that date as the national Flag Day was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1949; the legislation also called upon the president to issue a flag day proclamation every year.

Until the Executive Order of June 24, 1912, neither the order of the stars nor the proportions of the flag was prescribed. Consequently, flags dating before this period sometimes show unusual arrangements of the stars and odd proportions, these features being left to the discretion of the flag maker. In general, however, straight rows of stars and proportions similar to those later adopted officially were used. The principal acts affecting the flag of the United States are the following:

  • Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777 - stated: "Resolved: that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."
  • Act of January 13, 1794 - provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.
  • Act of April 4, 1818 - provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state.
  • Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 - established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.
  • Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.
  • Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizontally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.

 

The Flag of the United States
The Stars and Stripes

The Betsy Ross Flag

While no one knows the exact origin of the first American flag, some historians believe it was designed by Congressman Francis Hopkinson and sewn by Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross.

Betsy Ross showing the United States flag to George Washington and others

CREDIT: Ferris, Jean Louis Gerome. "Making the flag." Detroit Publishing Company between 1900 and 1920. Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920, Library of Congress.


 

Join or Die Flag 1754:

Join or Die Flag

The rattlesnake was the favorite animal emblem of the Americans even before the Revolution. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette carried a bitter article protesting the British practice of sending convicts to America. The author suggested tht the colonists return the favor by shipping "a cargo of rattlesnakes, which could be distributed in St. James Park, Spring Garden, and other places of pleasure, and particularly in the noblemen's gardens." Three years later the same paper printed the picture (as seen above) of a snake as a commentary on the Albany Congress. To remind the delegates of the danger of disunity, the serpent was shown cut to pieces. Each segment is marked with the name of a colony, and the motto "Join or Die" below. Other newspapers took up the snake theme.

By 1774 the segments of the snake had grown together, and the motto had been changed to read: "United Now Alive and Free Firm on this Basis Liberty Shall Stand and Thus Supported Ever Bless Our Land Till Time Becomes Eternity"

Other authors felt the rattlesnake was a good example of America's virtues. They argued that it is unique to America; individually its rattles produce no sound, but united they can be heard by all; and while it does not attack unless provoked, it is deadly to step upon one.


Washington's Flag 1775:

George Washingtons Flag

This was the personal flag of the Commander-In-Chief during the Revolutionary War. A reproduction of this flag flies today at Washington's Headquarters, Valley Forge.


Grand Union Flag 1775:

Grand Union Flag

Also known as the Continental flag, it is the first true U.S. Flag. It combined the British King's Colours and the thirteen stripes signifying Colonial unity. George Washington liked this design so well that he chose it to be flown to celebrate the formation of the Continental Army on New Years Day, 1776. On that day the Grand Union Flag was proudly raised on Prospect Hill in Somerville, near his headquarters at Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The Gadsden Flag 1776:

The Gadsden Flag

The American Revolutionary period was a time of intense but controlled individualism - when self-directing responsible individuals again and again decided for themselves what they should do, and did it- without needing anyone else to give them an assignment or supervise them in carrying it out.

Such a person was the patriot Colonel Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina. He had seen and liked a bright yellow banner with a hissing, coiled rattlesnake rising up in the center, and beneath the serpent the same words that appeared on the Striped Rattlesnake Flag - Don't Tread On Me. Colonel Gadsden made a copy of this flag and submitted the design to the Provincial Congress in South Carolina. Commodore Esek Hopkins, commander of the new Continental fleet, carried a similar flag in February, 1776, when his ships put to sea for the first time.

Hopkins captured large stores of British cannon and military supplies in the Bahamas. His cruise marked the salt-water baptism of the American Navy, and it saw the first landing of the Corps of Marines, on whose drums the Gadsden symbol was painted.


The Culpepper Flag 1776:

The Culpepper Flag

One of the first flags flown by our Navy may have been an adaptation of the "Rebellious Stripes" created at the time of the Stamp Act Congress. It featured thirteen red and white stripes. Stretched across them was the rippling form of a rattlesnake, and the words, "DON'T TREAD ON ME"- a striking indication of the colonists' courage and fierce desire for independence.

The flag we know today as the first Navy Jack (sometimes known as the "Culpepper Flag) is believed to have flown aboard the Alfred, flagship of the newly commissioned Continental fleet, in January, 1776. American ships used this flag, or one of its variations, throughout the Revolutionary War.


The Bennington Flag 1777:

The Bennington Flag

Used in the Battle of Bennington, August 16, 1777, by Vermont militia. This flag is the first to lead American armed forces on land. The original is preserved in the museum at Bennington, Vermont.

The Continental Congress adopts the following: Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation. (stars represent Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island)

On May 30, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation declaring that June 14 be celebrated as the official Flag Day. Many Americans celebrate Flag Day by displaying the Red, White and Blue in front of homes and businesses. The day commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.]

Date of Flag

Additional states with date of entry into Union

13 stars - 1777 to 1795

  • Delaware (December 7, 1787)
  • Pennsylvania (December 12, 1787)
  • New Jersey (December 18, 1787)
  • Georgia (January 2, 1788)
  • Connecticut (January 9, 1788)
  • Massachusetts (February 6, 1788)
  • Maryland (April 28, 1788)
  • South Carolina (May 23, 1788)
  • New Hampshire (June 21, 1788)
  • Virginia (June 25, 1788)
  • New York (July 26, 1788)
  • North Carolina (November 21, 1789)
  • Rhode Island (May 29, 1790)

15 stars - 1795 to 1818

  • Vermont (March 4, 1791)
  • Kentucky (June 1, 1792)

20 stars - 1818 to July 3, 1819

  • Tennessee (June 1, 1796)
  • Ohio (March 1, 1803)
  • Louisiana (April 30, 1812)
  • Indiana (December 11, 1816)
  • Mississippi (December 10, 1817)

21 stars - July 4, 1819 to July 3, 1820

  • Illinois (December 3, 1818)

23 stars - July 4, 1820 to July 3, 1822

  • Alabama (December 14, 1819)
  • Maine (March 15, 1820)

24 stars - July 4, 1822 to July 3, 1836

  • Missouri (August 10, 1821)

25 stars - July 4, 1836 to July 3, 1837

  • Arkansas (June 15, 1836)

26 stars - July 4, 1837 to July 3, 1845

  • Michigan (Jan 26, 1837)

27 stars - July 4, 1845 to July 3, 1846

  • Florida (March 3, 1845)

28 stars - July 4, 1846 to July 3, 1847

  • Texas (December 29, 1845)

29 stars - July 4, 1847 to July 3, 1848

  • Iowa (December 28, 1846)

30 stars - July 4, 1848 to July 3, 1851

  • Wisconsin (May 29, 1848)

31 stars - July 4, 1851 to July 3, 1858

  • California (September 9, 1850)

32 stars - July 4, 1858 to July 3, 1859

  • Minnesota (May 11, 1858)

33 stars - July 4, 1859 to July 3, 1861

  • Oregon (February 14, 1859)

34 stars - July 4, 1861 to July 3, 1863

  • Kansas (January 29, 1861)

35 stars - July 4, 1863 to July 3, 1865

  • West Virginia (June 20, 1863)

36 stars - July 4, 1865 to July 3, 1867

  • Nevada (October 31, 1864)

37 stars - July 4, 1867 to July 3, 1877

  • Nebraska (March 1, 1867)

38 stars - July 4, 1877 to July 3, 1890

  • Colorado (August 1, 1876)

43 stars - July 4, 1890 to July 3, 1891

  • North Dakota (November 2, 1889)
  • South Dakota (November 2, 1889)
  • Montana (November 8, 1889)
  • Washington (November 11, 1889)
  • Idaho (July 3, 1890)

44 stars - July 4, 1891 to July 3, 1896

  • Wyoming (July 10, 1890)

45 stars - July 4, 1896 to July 3, 1908

  • Utah (January 4, 1896)

46 stars - July 4, 1908 to July 3, 1912

  • Oklahoma (November 16, 1907)

48 stars - July 4, 1912 to July 3, 1959

  • New Mexico (January 6, 1912)
  • Arizona (February 14, 1912)

49 stars - July 4, 1959 to July 3, 1960

  • Alaska (January 3, 1959)

50 stars - July 4, 1960 to present

  • Hawaii (August 21, 1959)

Today's American Flag-13 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars; the 50 stars represent the 50 states, the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies; known as Old Glory the design and colors have been the basis for a number of other flags, including Chile, Liberia, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico

The Pledge of Allegiance

I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all