For more than two-hundred years, American flags have been the symbol of our country’s unity and strength. It’s been a source of inspiration and pride for millions of people, and has been a pretty prominent figure in our nation’s history. The design of the flag has been officially modified 26 times since the first true American flags in 1776. But where did it start?
American Flags from the Ground Up
The roots of our country’s flag came two years before any flag you’d recognize today. The 1775 Continental Navy flag, for example, was red and white striped, but it donned a snake and the warning, ‘DON’T TREAD ON ME’. Then came the simple red-and-white flag of the Sons of Liberty, a group of pre-Revolution American patriots responsible for many acts of rebellion including the Boston Tea Party. Also in 1775 came the New England flag, with red, white, and blue stripes, and a tree in the upper left-hand corner.
Then came the Grand Union flag on January 1st, 1776, looking much like our own but for the British flag in the upper left corner rather than the usual white stars on blue. The Grand Union flag was created when America took its first stance against Great Britain and required a flag much different than the one the British ships waved. It’s considered by most to be the first national flag of the United States.
The Birth of the Modern Flag
Despite being such a momentous creation, the actual creator of the modern flag design is still a subject of great controversy. The most commonly-accepted candidate is Betsy Ross. As far as books have taught for years, she was the only candidate, but historians in recent years have been calling her story into serious question. There were, in fact, five or six other equally-skilled flag-makers working on their own renditions of our country’s flag, at the time. On top of that, there’s a well-renowned theory that the flag wasn’t created by a person, but by an entire committee.
No matter who sewed the flag, in June of 1777 the Congress passed the Flag Resolution, which stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Many new flags were created following these criteria with varying accuracy over the next decade, but by the time they added stars for Vermont and Kentucky in 1795, most all flags had evenly-spaced rows of stars like you see today.
The Flag’s Development
Over the next sixteen decades, the number of stars grew from fifteen to fifty, ending with the addition of Hawaii in 1960. The Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, was adopted as our National Anthem in the early 20th century. Today, American flags are displayed in every classroom and public buildings. And more than anything else, these flags have truly become the symbol of our nation.