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.
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.
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:
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