There is as much fascination surrounding the history of the American flag as there is with the American Republic itself. The flag has survived battles, inspired symphonies, and evolved in response to the development of the country it represents. You probably already know what the flag of the United States of America looks like today. But did you know its design has evolved? The design tended to closely mirror the political turmoil and changes throughout the history of the United States.
While many people associate “Betsy Ross” with the American flag, its history is not that popular. Throughout 1775, dissatisfied colonists wanted an independent flag to represent their independence. There was a flag with a snake on it with the slogan “Don’t Tread On Me” that was very famous in early times. Eventually, the snake was replaced with an evergreen tree donning a red, white, and blue stripe pattern, known as the “Liberty Tree.”
The Many Versions of the American Flag
Other versions shoed up in late 1775 with the British Union Jack and 13 stripes to represent the 13 colonies. Yet another design showed up five months later designed by a seamstress from Philadelphia. Betsy Ross was the seamstress. She replaced the Union Jack with a circle of 13 stars, one star representing each part of the original colony. This design has been recognized as the first flag by many American up to this day.
Congress approved the country’s very first flag on June 14th, 1777. In 1949, President Harry Truman made June 14th Flag Day a national holiday to recognize the day. Until today, we remember this day and celebrate it with pride. During that time, however, the country was rapidly expanding due to the end of the Colonial Period. More and more states became part of the United States and the flag needed to represent them and the changing times. Because of this, Congress altered the American flag’s design many times between 1777 and 1960, each version adding in a new star for newly admitted states.
Since adding new stripes for every state would have been to clutter, the number of stripes stayed the same to represent the original 13 colonies. Each state’s participation in the country is therefore reflected in the number of stars placed in the box on the flag’s leftmost corner. The Confederacy states abandoned the American flag during the Civil War and instead designed, built, and flew their own flag, dubbed the Confederate Battle Flag.
Were you aware that the colors of the American flag have a historical significance as well? These colors were not just randomly picked, but there is actually a deeper meaning to them. Let start off with the color red. Red, the color of strength and bravery, signifies hardy and noble qualities. The color white represents purity, while a blue color symbolizes perseverance and justice.
A great deal of controversy surrounds the American flag. Still, it has also inspired artists, such as Jasper Johns and Francis Scott Key, the composers of the famous “Star-Spangled Banner” composed it after observing the huge garrison flag survive the 24 hours long shelling of Fort McHenry by the British.
The American flag that was the inspiration for Key’s song is under conservation by the National Museum of American History. Besides taking their flag abroad, Americans have also taken their flag to outer space; in 1969, Neil Armstrong (the first man on the moon) planted the American Flag on the moon. The flag was also raised on top of Mt. Everest by Barry Bishop in 1963 and at the North Pole by Robert Peary in 1909. Furthermore, the American flag also flies high on holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day.
When a beloved public figure passes away, the flag is lowered at sunset and often to half-mast. Nevertheless, some places in the US where the flag is always flown, including the US Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, and the White House.
Knowing the history of the American flag can make you appreciate it more. When you see the flag next time, stop and take note of how much history it represents.