On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: "Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”[i]
The most well-known version of the Flag of the United States of America is nicknamed the Betsy Ross Flag. This flag featured thirteen stripes, alternate red and white numbering 7 red and 6 white stripes with a canton (rectangular area at the top hoist corner of a flag) of blue and thirteen five point stars in a circle. Stories abound that the reason for a five-point star was because Mrs. Ross was a seamstress by trade and a five-point star was easier to embroider.
The Francis Hopkinson flag of 1777 was the flag for the US Navy and featured 13 stripes and 13 6-pointed stars in rows in the blue canton.
As the United States added new states to the union the flag gained stars and stripes. At one time there were 15 stripes and 15 stars. It was this flag design that was seen flying over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key’s poem “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
The Current Flag of the United States of America
On April 4, 1818 Congress passed a plan that specified the design of the flag and the admission of new states to the union and their recognition on the Flag of the United States of America. The Flag Act of 1818 set forth that the stripes should return to 13 stripes alternating red and white to honor the 13 original colonies and a star shall be added for each new state. It was also set forth in this Flag Act that each new state shall only have their star added to the flag on July 4th after their acceptance into the union.
It was not until the Presidential order of President Taft in 1912 that the pattern for the stars within the blue canton were dictated to be alternate horizontal rows with each star’s point facing upward. Before this time there were several designs in which the stars in the blue canton appeared in circles, stars and other patterns. The horizontal alignment was later amended by the Presidential order of President Eisenhower in 1959 after the admission of the 50th state.
The current Flag of the United States of America was designed by Robert G. Heft. He was 17-years-old and created the flag design in 1958 as a high school class project. He received a B− on the project. According to Heft, his history teacher honored their agreement to change his grade to an A after his design was selected.[i]
The fifty-star flag is the longest continuously used flag design for The Flag of the United States of America and received that honor in 2007 when it surpassed the 47 years the forty-eight-star flag design was in use.
To see a full display of all our amazing historical flags you can visit Flag of the United States on Wikipedia.
[i] Wikipedia. “Flag of the United States.” Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States
Did you know?
The Flag of the United States of America should always be flown aloft and free and should not be dipped to any person or thing. When displayed vertically the canton should be in the top left.
The Flag of the United States of America should not touch anything below it (but does not need to be burned if it does touch the ground – simply correct the flags position and remove any dirt).
The Flag of the United States of America should be illuminated if flown at night and be made of durable material if flown in poor weather.
The Flag of the United States of America should be retired with dignity in a ceremony when it has become tattered, or permanently stained.
The Flag of the United States of America should not be used as clothing, decoration, placed on cushions, napkins, plates or any other item intended for temporary use and disposal.
- The Flag of the United States of America should be displayed at half-staff on these dates:
- May 15 – Peace Officers Memorial Day
- Last Monday of May – Memorial Day
- September 11 – Patriot’s Day
- First Sunday in October – National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service
- December 7 – Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
- Etiquette for half-mast display
- To display The Flag of the United States of America at half-staff it should be raised briskly to the top of the staff, paused and then lowered slowly to half-staff.
- To retire The Flag of the United States of America flown at half-staff it should be raised briskly to the top, paused and then lowered slowly.
 "Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, 8:464"
 Wikipedia. “Flag of the United States.” Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States