History of the American Flag
Love America? Want to fly the American flag? The American flag has been around for over 200 years and is one of the hallmarks of America that brings pride to the nation. The American flag represents so many things to so many different people, and on a variety of special occasions you’ll see it flying high to commemorate these special events.
When flying the American flag, you may not think about the events which led up to what it is today. For those who are interested in the history of the American flag, the following is a historic guide of how the American flag became the pride of this great nation today.
How the American Flag Was Born
On the 14th of June, 1777, the Continental Congress first passed an act which established the creation of an official flag which represented the newly found nation. The resolution stated: “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." President Harry S. Truman declared that the 14th of June was officially Flag Day.
The Design of the America Flag
When the American flag was first designed, it was first decreed that there should be a stripe and star for each of the thirteen states which represented the original thirteen colonies at that time. The color choices of the flag are said to be chosen because:
- Red represents valor, fervency, and zeal.
- White represents hope, cleanliness of life, purity, and rectitude of conduct.
- Blue represents sincerity, loyalty, justice, truth, and heaven, for reverence to God.
The stars, on the other hand, symbolized sovereignty, dominion, and lofty aspirations.
Within the union, the constellation of stars represents one for each state, and it is emblematic of the Federal Constitution. Washington interpreted the symbolism of the flag as “We take the stars from Heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing Liberty.”
Timeline of Flag Changes throughout the Years
Over the centuries between 1777 to 1960, there were several more acts passed by Congress which officially changed the arrangement, design, and shape of the American flag. This was to allow for the addition of each new stripe and star that represented the admission of each extra new state that was formed. The following timeline shows these changes throughout the years:
- January 13th, 1794 Act – Provided for fifteen stars and fifteen stripes after May 1795.
- April 4th, 1818 Act – Provided for thirteen stripes and one star to be added to the flag for each state after the admission and recognition of a new state on the 4th of July. This was signed by President Monroe.
- June 24th, 1912 – President Taft’s Executive Order established the proportions of the American flag and provided the arrangement of six horizontal rows of eight stars each. A single point on each of the stars had to be facing upwards.
- January 3rd, 1959 – President Eisenhower’s Executive Order provided for the star arrangement on the flag to be in seven rows of seven stars in a vertical and horizontal manner.
- August 21st, 1959 – President Eisenhower’s Executive Order allowed for the arrangement of nine rows of stars that staggered across the flag horizontally and eleven star rows which staggered vertically.
Origin and Interesting Facts About the
American Flag - Old Glory
The American flag, also known as Old Glory, has seen a very colorful past life. The following are some interesting facts about its origin and life from years gone by:
- The origin of the very first American flag that was constructed is unknown. There are many historians who believe that a Congressman from New Jersey, Francis Hopkinson, designed the flag, while seamstress Betsy Ross from Philadelphia sewed it together.
- Older than the Tricolor of France and Britain’s Union Jack flag, the American flag is the third oldest flag in the world associated with the National Standards. On August 3rd, the American flag was first flown from Fort Stanwix, New York. From August 6th, 1777, the flag was under fire in the Battle of Oriskany.
- On September 11, 1777, the flag was first carried into battle at Brandywine.
- French Admiral, LaMotte Piquet, was the first foreign person who saluted the American flag on February 13, 1778 off Quiberon Bay.
- The nickname “Old Glory” was originally given to an American flag that was 10 ft. x 17 ft. by its possessor, Massachusetts sea captain William Driver of the brig Charles Doggett. Today the name is one of the more popular nickname choices of the American flag. The flag owned by William Driver is said to have survived many defacing attempts during the Civil War. Once the war ended, Driver was allowed to fly Old Glory over the Tennessee Statehouse. Today, Drivers’ Old Glory is now located at the National Museum of American History as a primary artefact. It was last displayed at an exhibition in Tennessee in 2006 with permission of the Smithsonian.
- The National Museum of American History has taken it upon themselves to start a long-term preservation project of the 1814 enormous garrison flag which survived Fort McHenry of Baltimore’s 25-hour shelling by British troops. This garrison flag helped in the creation of “The Star-Spangled Banner” which was an inspiration by Francis Scott Key.
Over time the flag has become weakened and soiled and, in December 1998, was removed from the museum. This long-term preservation effort to save the deteriorating flag began in June 1999 and still continues to this day. Today you’ll find the flag stored in a special low-oxygen and light-filtered chamber at a 10-degree angle. It is specially examined and monitored periodically by specialist at a microscopic level to detect any signs of damage and decay within each individual fiber.
Inspirational Creations Inspired by the American Flag
Today there are a few places in the USA where the American flag is flown 24/7. This is due to law or by presidential proclamation. These places include:
- The White House – Washington DC
- Flag House Square – Baltimore, Maryland
- National Monument and Historic Shrine, Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland
- United States customs of ports
- United States Marine Corps Memorial, Arlington, Virginia
- National Memorial Arch grounds in Valley Forge State Park, Pennsylvania
- Green of the Town, Lexington, Massachusetts
Inspirational Creations Inspired by the American Flag
The American flag has been a great inspiration to many over the years. Some notable inspirations include:
- The Pledge of Allegiance – The Pledge of Allegiance was inspired in 1892 by Francis Bellamy and James B. Upham. A magazine called The Youth’s Companion was the first place it was published.
- The Star-Spangled Banner – The Star-Spangled Banner was written by amateur poet Francis Scott Key on Sept 14, 1814, and it was inspired by the American flag flying over Fort McHenry, Baltimore. In 1931 it officially became the USA’s national anthem.
On Distant Shores and Beyond
The American Flag has been in many different places, over the years; however, some notable places the American flag has been in history include:
- Mount Everest – 1963. Barry Bishop placed the flag at the very top after an exhausting climb.
- Fort Nassau – 1778. On January 28, 1778, the American flag first flew high over foreign territory on the Bahama islands at Nassau. Fort Nassau was captured by America in the war for independence.
- Fort Derne, Libya – 1805. The American flag was flown for the 2nd time in overseas territories over Fort Derne in Libya on the Tripoli shores.
- North Pole – 1909. Robert Peary was the first person who placed the American flag at the North Pole. The flag had been sewn by his wife. He also cut up another American flag, of which he left pieces behind as he traveled the harsh conditions. He is the only person in history who has been honored for cutting up the U.S. flag.
- The Moon – 1969. During the Apollo program, the American flag was placed on the moon of each of the six manned landings. Neil Armstrong was the first to fly the American flag in space in July 1969 when he placed it on the moon.
Displaying the Stars and Stripes: American Flag Etiquette
Displaying the American flag does come with some “rules.” Some American flag etiquette rulesthat you should know include, but aren’t limited to:
- Sunrise to sunset is when the flag is generally displayed. When raised, the flag should be raised up using a brisk movement. When lowered it should be done ceremoniously. The flag shouldn’t be flown in inclement weather.
- Weather permitting, the American flag should be displayed on all holidays and each day near or on main public administration building institutions. On election days it should be placed near every polling building, and near every schoolhouse during the school days.
- When isplayed in a vertical orientation or flat against a window or wall, the “union”of stars should be to the left of the observer and be at the highest level possible.
- When the flag is lowered or raised during a ceremony, or when it passes in a parade, everyone should place their right hand over their heart while facing the flag.
- The American flag shouldn’t touch anything beneath it, nor should it be dipped toward an object or person.
- It should never be used as clothing or to carry things.
- It shouldn’t ever touch the ground.
- It shouldn’t be flown upside down unless in a dire emergency.
- You should never get it dirty or use it as a cover in the rain.
- It should always fall free and shouldn’t be tied.
- The American flag shouldn’t be burnt maliciously or drawn on, as it can be seen as an act of defiance against America.
Special Holidays to Fly the Flag Freely
Throughout the year, there are many different days which allow you to fly the American flag freely and proudly. These days include:
- New Year’s Day – January 1
- Inauguration Day – January 20 (every four years)
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Third Monday in January
- President's Day – 3rd Monday in February
- Easter Sunday – Varying, depending on year
- Army Day (Navy only) – April 6
- Birthday of Thomas Jefferson (army only) –April 13
- Pan American Day (embassies in Latin America) – April 14
- Loyalty Day/Law Day (Army only) – May 1
- Mother’s Day– 2nd Sunday in May
- Peace Officers Memorial Day – May 15
- Armed Forces Day – 3rd Saturday in May
- National Maritime Day (Army & Navy only – May 22
- Memorial Day – Last Monday in May
- Flag Day – June 14
- Father’s Day (Army only) – 3rd Sunday in June
- Independence Day – July 4
- Korean War Armistice Day – July 27
- National Aviation Day (Army only) – August 19
- Labor Day – 1st Monday in September
- Patriot’s Day – September 11
- Constitution Day – September 17
- POW/MIA Recognition Day –3rd Friday in September
- Gold Star Mother’s Day (Army only) – Last Sunday in September
- Columbus Day (October 12 at Foreign Service posts) – 2nd Monday in October
- Navy Day (Navy and Marine Corps only) – October 27
- Marine Corps Birthday (Marine Corps only) – November 10
- Veterans Day – November 11
- Thanksgiving Day – 4th Thursday in November Pearl Harbor Day – December 7
The Importance of Flying the American Flag
Flying the American flag is important. Some of the reasons why it should be flown include that it:
- Represents respect for those who have fallen to make America a free country.
- Represents unity, respect, freedom, idealism, patriotism, and independence as a free nation.
- Reminds those who live in America of the values of the country and nation.
- Helps everyone remember what we all fight to achieve in our lives.
The American Flag Today
Today the flag of the United States of America holds deep and noble significance to the nation and to the entire world. That message is of individual liberty, patriotism, idealism, and national independence. The flag doesn’t represent a royal house or a reigning family, but the 300+ million free indiviuals who are welded together to create one strong, inseparable, and united nation that comes together not only with community interest, but the interests of the rest of the world. This nation is distinguished from other nations for its commitment to clear individual citizen conception of their privileges, their duties, their rights, and their obligations.
The American flag also represents that of the spirit of Liberty, the freedom of human rights, and the opportunity of equal life in the pursuit of happiness. To many, the American flag is a beacon of hope for those who may have lost their way during difficult times. It brings everyone together from different ethnic groups. It also encompasses a rich and vibrant history of struggle, tragedy, heroism, success, and freedom of those before us who altered their lives to make our lives and living environment what it is today.
The flag first rose along the Atlantic seaboard over thirteen states, which featured a population of over 3 million. Today it now flies over all fifty states, extending over great islands and across the continent. Heroes died for it, and citizens have advanced it in modern times. It brings all Americans together with honor and loyalty.
The American flag is a powerful symbol that is seen around the world. Backed by a powerful country, government, and people’s passion, America is a great nation that brings hope to those who have little left.
If you’re visiting or planning to live in America, why not take the time to know the history behind the flag that’s flown? Celebrate all it has to offer and what was sacrificed for it to become what it is today. Why not fly the flag high when you visit America? So, do you have your own U.S.-made American flag?