Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Quick history of the American flag

Happy 4th of July, everyone!  Happy birthday USA.  I'd like to present some fun facts about the US flag:

1776: The first flag.

Image source.

This was used because it was really easy to make, just take the British red ensign (flag used for ships) and add white stripes.

British red ensign.  Image source.
Here is a replica flag, featuring this original design, at San Francisco City Hall:

Image source.

1777: 13 stars, 13 stripes.

But there wasn't a clear standard about how the stars should be arranged.  So you had a bunch of different designs:

Betsy Ross flag.  Image source.
Francis Hopkinson's flag.  Image source.
Cowpens flag.  Image source.
Brandywine flag.  Yeah I don't know what's with all the red space.  That actually IS part of the flag.  Like I said, totally not standardized... Image source.

1795: 15 stars, 15 stripes.  Welcome, Vermont and Kentucky!

Image source.

This was the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner."

After that they went back to 13 stripes for all subsequent designs.  Because the stripes were just getting out of hand.

But every time a new state is added, the flag gets updated on the following 4th of July.  (Is that weird?  It means the US flag has gone through 28 variations.)

Well, here they all are (images all from here):

And finally, the flag as it has been since 1960, after the addition of Hawaii:

My blog looks so patriotic today!

Kinda weird that a lot of these designs were only in use for 1 or 2 years- there was a long time where the US was adding tons of states and had to keep updating.  Maybe the "# of stars = # of states" thing was a bad design.  Though right now it's fine because we've been at 50 for a long time.

Finally, I have a question for my readers: What is something important about the US, that would be good to put on a flag?  (Because, apparently the number of states that the country is divided into is REALLY important?  Gotta keep updating the flag.  Okay whatever.)

My answer would be something about diversity- the vast majority of Americans are descendants of people who moved to this continent in the last 300 or so years.  I think that's pretty unique, and it makes the US really diverse as far as culture/race/ethnicity.

I feel like the Statue of Liberty is a good symbol for that, because it (she?) welcomed the immigrants from Europe back in the day.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Image source.

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Moon landing in 1969.  This is the flag with 50 stars.  Image source.

Flag of the United States
Grand Union Flag
Red Ensign
Timeline of the Flag of the United States
List of US States by date of statehood
Statue of Liberty

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