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History of the American Flag

History of the American Flag

The American flag as it's known today has evolved a lot over the last 200 plus years. The flag's design may have changed, but the meaning, a symbol of unity, strength, and pride, has remained the same. The first flag was sewn by Betsy Ross in May of 1776. It had 13 stripes, 13 stars, and was adopted the nations official flag on June 14, 1977 by Congress. With the addition of Vermont and Kentucky, the flag was changed to show 15 stars and 15 stripes. The time between 1795 and 1818 was the only time the American flag had more than 13 stripes. Over the next hundred years stars were added to the flag for each state that joined the nation. Over time the stars on the flag have been arranged in different patterns, including a circle, until 1912 when an Executive Order was signed prohibiting the rearrangement of them.

  • 1776: The Betsy Ross flag became the national flag of the United States.
  • 1795: Two stars and two stripes were added to represent two new states.
  • 1818: Five stars were added to represent five new states and the stripes went down to 13 to represent the original 13 colonies.
  • 1912: The flag now has 48 stars and 13 stripes and would remain that way until the 1950's. President Taft signs an Executive Order saying that the stars on the flag should be aligned and not altered.

"I pledge allegiance..."

The original Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. The original pledge read: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all." The pledge was first used in schools, on Columbus Day, 1892. In 1923 the words "my flag" were changed to "to the flag of the United States of America." Bellamy protested this change, but his protests were ignored. In 1954 at the request of the Knights of Columbus, Congress added the words "under God" to the pledge.

  • 1892: Francis Bellamy wrote the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • 1892: October 12, 1892, Columbus Day, the pledge was first used in public schools.
  • 1923: The words of the pledge were changed to read, "to the flag of the United States of America."
  • 1954: The words, "under God" were added to the pledge.

Flag Day

While the fourth of July was originally celebrated as America's birthday, the idea of starting an observance specifically for the flag, started around 1885, and it wasn't actually celebrated until 1889. In 1889 a kindergarten teacher in New York planned a celebration for the flag on June 14 and a year later it was adopted by the New York state board of education. A year later the Betsy Ross house held a flag day celebration and the tradition spanned schools throughout various states for years to come. In 1916, the anniversary of the flag resolution was established when President, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation. While flag day was celebrated in different places from then on out, June 14th wasn't officially proclaimed "Flag Day" until August 3rd, 1949 when President Truman signed the official Act of Congress.

  • 1885: The idea to have a flag day celebration began.
  • 1889: A kindergarten teacher celebrated "Flag Day" for the first time in his classroom.
  • 1894: The mayor of Philadelphia requested everyone display the flag on June 14 to celebrate the flag.
  • 1916: President, Woodrow Wilson signed a Proclamation of President that named June14th as the anniversary of the flag.
  • 1949: President Truman, signed the Act of Congress making June 14th, Flag Day, and official holiday.

Flag Meanings and Etiquette

Everywhere you look in the US you can see a flag flying, courthouses, paralegal schools, churches, naval ships, homes and countess other places. There are rules known as flag etiquette that one must follow to properly display an American flag. For example the flag is flown at half-staff on Memorial Day until noon to show respect and honor for those who served the country in battle. There is also a proper way to fold a flag from the US Air Force Academy. Each fold in the ceremony is a symbol, there are twelve in all. There are many meanings and traditions associated with the American flag. In some places the flag must fly 24 hours a day, the colors, and even the numbers of the stars have meaning. Like with most things in the American culture, traditions are important with the flag.

  • The 13 red and white stripes on the flag represent the original 13 colonies.
  • The stars on the flag each represent a state.
  • The color white is used to signify purity and innocence.
  • The color red stands for valor and bravery.
  • The color blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
  • By law the flag flies 24 hours a day at The White House, Washington Monument, US  Customs ports of Entry, and various other national monuments.