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History of the U.S. Flag

America has had many flags.

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Flag Day is here. This is the day Americans celebrate one of our nation’s best-known symbols. The flag we have today has gone through many changes.

The Earliest American Flags

During the Revolutionary War, the colonists used a few different banners. The first unofficial flag had many names including Continental Colors, the Grand Union Flag, the Union Flag, the Cambridge Flag, and the Somerville Flag. It was hoisted on a 76-foot liberty pole at Prospect Hill in Charleston, Massachusetts – which is now known as Somerville. The design had thirteen stripes to represent the unity of the colonies, and the British Union Jack.

Some historians disagree, but others say George Washington asked Betsy Ross to sew and design the first official flag.

Birth of the Star-Spangled Banner

Just before the War of 1812, two new states were added to the Union, bringing the total to 15. The flag was changed to make room for 15 stars and stripes. It flew over Fort McHenry during a battle, and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become America’s national anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner.

In 1818, Congress decided that all flags from then on should have 13 stripes for the original 13 colonies. The number of stars should match the number of states in the Union. Any new stars shall be added on July 4 after a new state has joined.

The exact colors were not decided until 1934. There is no official meaning given to the red, white, and blue – but while talking about the Great Seal of the United States, Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, said:

“White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue … signifies vigilance [sic], perseverance [sic] & justice.”

Today, there are many places where the flag is flown 24-hours a day:

  • The White House
  • Fort McHenry National Monument
  • Customs ports of entry
  • Flag House Square
  • Marine Corps Memorial (remembrance of Iwo Jima) in Arlington, Virginia
  • On the town green in Lexington, Massachusetts
  • National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park in Pennsylvania

National Correspondent at LibertyNation.com and LNGenZ.com. Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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