1)The national flag of the United States of America, often referred to as the American flag, consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton (referred to specifically as the “union”) bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars. The 50 stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of America and the 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the Union. The seven red stripes stand for the 7 continents of the world. Nicknames for the flag include the “Stars and Stripes”, “Old Glory”,and “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
- American ships in New England waters flew a “Liberty Tree” flag in 1775. It shows a green pine tree on a white background, with the words, “An Appeal to Heaven.”
- The Continental Navy used this flag, with the warning, “Don’t Tread on Me,” upon its inception.
- It is said to be the oldest known American flag (that is, a flag intentionally designed and used to symbolize the country), and the oldest to use 13 red and white stripes for this purpose. It was carried by the Minutemen when they were called out on April 19, 1775, for the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
- On January 1, 1776, the Continental Army was reorganized in accordance with a Congressional resolution which placed American forces under George Washington’s control. On that New Year’s Day the Continental Army was laying siege to Boston which had been taken over by the British Army. Washington ordered the Grand Union flag hoisted above his base at Prospect Hill. It had 13 alternate red and white stripes and the British Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner (the canton).
- In May of 1776, Betsy Ross reported that she sewed the first American flag.
- On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
- Between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several acts that changed the shape, design and arrangement of the flag and allowed for additional stars and stripes to be added to reflect the admission of each new state.
2)The Grand Union Flag (also the Continental Colors, the Congress Flag, the Cambridge Flag, and the First Navy Ensign) is considered to be the first national flag of the United States. This flag consisted of thirteen red and white stripes with the British Union Flag of the time (the variant prior to the inclusion of the St. Patrick’s cross of Ireland) in the canton.
The Grand Union flag was first hoisted on the USS Alfred, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 3, 1775, by Lieutenant John Paul Jones. The event had been documented in letters to Congress and eyewitness accounts. The Grand Union flag was used by the American Continental forces as both a naval ensign and garrison flag through 1776 and early 1777
By the end of 1775, during the first year of the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress operated as a de facto war government authorizing the creation of an army, navy and even a marine corps. A new flag was required to represent the Congress and fledgling nation, different from the Red Ensign flown from British vessels and British Union flags carried by the King’s troops.
4)The design of the flag has been modified 26 times officially, since 1777. The 48-star flag was in effect for 47 years until the 49-star version became official on July 4, 1959. The 50-star flag was ordered by President Eisenhower on August 21, 1959.
The modern meaning of the flag was forged in December 1860, when Major Robert Anderson moved the U.S. garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Adam Goodheart argues this was the opening move of the Civil War, and the flag was used throughout the North to symbolize American nationalism and rejection of secessionism.
Before that day, the flag had served mostly as a military ensign or a convenient marking of American territory, flown from forts, embassies, and ships, and displayed on special occasions like American Independence day. But in the weeks after Major Anderson’s surprising stand, it became something different. Suddenly the Stars and Stripes flew—as it does today, and especially as it did after the September 11 attacks in 2001—from houses, from storefronts, from churches; above the village greens and college quads. For the first time American flags were mass-produced rather than individually stitched and even so, manufacturers could not keep up with demand. As the long winter of 1861 turned into spring, that old flag meant something new. The abstraction of the Union cause was transfigured into a physical thing: strips of cloth that millions of people would fight for, and many thousands die for.
6) and 7)The flag of the United States is one of the nation’s most widely recognized symbols. Within the United States, flags are frequently displayed not only on public buildings but on private residences. The flag is a common motif on decals for car windows, and clothing ornaments such as badges and lapel pins. Throughout the world the flag has been used in public discourse to refer to the United States.
10)The flag has become a powerful symbol of Americanism, and is proudly flown on many occasions, with giant outdoor flags used by retail outlets to draw customers. Desecration of the flag is considered a public outrage, but remains protected as freedom of speech. In worldwide comparison, it was noted that the United States is not unique in adoring its banner, for in Scandinavian countries their flags are also “beloved, domesticated, commercialized and sacralized objects”.