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MIKE GOAD
MIKE GOAD

The American flag is one of the most well-known symbols in the world and is associated traditionally with freedom and liberty. The flag's origins can be found in the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783). American military forces required a flag to distinguish American ships and units from those of the British Empire. The Brandywine flag was one of the first American flags to feature the stars and stripes. It was a militia company's flag, carried by Captain Robert Wilson's company of the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment. The flag was used during the American Revolution and is named after the Battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777. The Bennington Flag is an early red, white and blue flag and is named after the Battle of Bennington, August 16, 1777. It is also known as the Fillmore flag after its owner Nathaniel Fillmore. Whether the Easton flag can be seen as an origin of the American flag or not is not clear. It may dates from the War of 1812. However, the Grand Union flag, also known as the Continental flag and the Cambridge flag, is one predecessor of the American flag. It was the most famous flag back then, representing the Continental Army and the new nation.

 

The arrangement of the stripes can be traced back to a 1765 Sons of Liberty flag, named "The Boston Liberty Flag." It flew over an old elm (The Liberty Tree) in Hanover Square in Boston. It had nine red and white stripes that stood for the representatives of the nine colonies who attended the Stamp Act Congress on October 19, 1764.

 

Stars have been used as a heraldic device since the 12th century, in particular in family coat of arms and for communities. Also, the Holy Roman Empire used stars in heraldry. They became popular as a heraldic device since the 16th and 17th century and can be seen as a symbol of strength and greatness.

Although the origin of the first American flag is unknown, historians believe that the 13-Star American flag was designed by Francis Hopkinson. He was a lawyer from New Jersey and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It is believed that he was the designer of the flag because he was also an artist who created the official seal of the State of New Jersey and who highly contributed to the design of the Great Seal of the United States. The Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act on June 14, 1777 to establish an official flag for the young republic.

  • born in Philadelphia on October 2, 1737
  • After he graduated from the College of Philadelphia, he studied law
  • In 1774, he was appointed to the New Jersey Governor's Council
  • He represented the state of New Jersey in the Continental Congress
  • One signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • Hopkinson had an affinity for designing seals (The seal of the state of New Jersey as well as the ones of the American Philosophical Society and the College of Philadelphia)

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE DIGITAL IMAGE ARCHIVES
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE DIGITAL IMAGE ARCHIVES

The 15-Star American Flag is also known as the Star-Spangled Banner and has in contrast to all other U.S. flags 15 stripes because it was produced under the Second Flag Act in 1794. The Star-Spangled Banner is the most famous American flag, named after the same-titled national anthem. The fifteen-stars, fifteen-stripes flag flew over Fort Mc Henry and became a national symbol during the War of 1812.

Francis Scott Key, a 35-year- old American lawyer, was on board of a British warship for a prisoner exchange. A total of nine war ships were under the command of Admiral Crochrane. On September 13, 1814, the ships began bombarding Fort Mc Henry, a military installation named after former secretary of war James McHenry. The attack lasted the entire day and into the night. "By dawns early light", the 15-Star Flag waved strong over the fort. Francis Scott Key put the scene into words and wrote a poem called "Defence of Fort M'Henry" also known as the Star-Spangled Banner. His text appeared in newspapers "Baltimore Patriot" and "Evening Advertiser" and became a sensation. Even though composed by a Briton named Staffed Smith, the melody "To Anacreon in Heaven" seemed to be the right one to match Key's poem. 

 

The flag at Fort Mc Henry had an enormous size of thirty-by-forty-two foot and weighed about fifty pounds. It was raised onto a ninety-foot flagpole at the fort. The flag was sewed by Mary Young Pickersgill of Baltimore.

The fifteen-star, fifteen-stripes flag also flew on the best known warships of the U.S. Navy, "The Constitution," also known as "Old Ironside," and it was flown during the Tripolitan War.

PUBLIC DOMAIN: WOOD, JOSEPH. PORTRAIT OF FRANCIS SCOTT KEY
PUBLIC DOMAIN: WOOD, JOSEPH. PORTRAIT OF FRANCIS SCOTT KEY
  • born on August 1, 1779
  • went to Annapolis to attend Johns College
  • graduated in 1796 and studied law
  • began practicing law in 1801 in Frederick, Maryland
  • U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
  • Poet and very religious
  • died in Baltimore on January 11, 1843

Samuel C. Reid was an officer in the United States Navy. He suggested reducing the stripes back to thirteen to represent the 13 original states, and the adding of a star for each new American state. He also suggested that these stars should form a large star in the center of the union. The Great Star Flag did not meet general favor and the stars were arranged in straight lines. However, his Great Star Flag was the first one of many Great Stars Flags over the years.

The third flag act was signed by President James Monroe and established the shape of the American flag on April 4, 1818 after Peter Hercules Wendover had submitted a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for a committee to determine the future makeup of the Stars and Stripes. Whenever a new state was admitted to the Union, a star was added to the American flag the following Fourth of July. 

The Louisiana Purchase which triggered the Westward Movement under the term "Manifest Destiny" had a great influence on the shape of the American flag. During the course of the nation's history the flag has changed several times. Until June 24 in 1912, neither the order of the white stars nor the right proportions of the American flag was prescribed. That is why the flag prior to this period sometimes showed unusual arrangements of the stars. The evolution of the American flag reflects U.S. history (starting 1776) from its very beginning, a story of the greatest nation on the Western Hemisphere.    

President William Howard Taft signed an executive order setting out the arrangement for the 48-star flag on June 24, 1912. 

The flag changed its look again in 1960 and has 50 stars today.

In 1885, Bernard Cigrand, a small-town teacher from Waubeka, Wisconsin, came up with the idea for an annual flag day. He was an expert on heraldy and a patriotic American whose parents immigrated from Luxembourg. Together with his students and colleagues, the first flag day was celebrated. President Woodrow Wilson officially declared June 14 as Flag Day  in 1916. Ever since Flag Day is observed throughout the U.S.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and published in the Youth's Companion, one of the most popular magazines back then. The content was geared toward the youth, but it also appealed adults, including American authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jack London and Emily Dickinson. When the Pledge was published, no credit was given for its authorship. James B. Upham, a junior partner with the magazine, claimed that he was the one who wrote it but Bellamy spoke out strongly, arguing that he was the author. Both, the United States Flag Association and a study by the Library of Congress came to the conclusion that Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. In its original version, the arm was extended towards the flag.

By saying the Pledge of Allegiance you show your deepest love and loyalty to the United States.

On Flag Day in 1923, the National Flag Code was passed. Before June 14, 1923, no official guidelines were governing the display of the United States flag. There were certain attempts to officially protect the United States flag but unfortunately, they have failed. However, any American can show respect for the U.S. flag by following the U.S. Flag Code.

The world may have changed, politicians come and go, but the meaning of the American flag stayed true, and it has to remain true because everything else would be unpatriotic treason. 

William Driver was a sea captain from Massachusetts who named his 10-by-17-foot flag "Old Glory". Today, it is the nickname of all American flags. Driver's flag was designed to unfurl from a ship's mast and had 24 stars in 1824. By 1860 it had ten additional stars. His flag became famous because it survived multiple attempts to destroy it during the Civil War (1861-1865). William Driver was able to fly the flag over Tennessee Statehouse after Union troops led by the Sixth Ohio had entered the city.

Artists from almost every music genre have shown their love and devotion for our great American flag. The U.S. flag is a symbol of liberty! The flag played an outstanding role in two historic Broadway musicals: Little Johnny Jones and George Washington Jr., written and produced by George M. Cohan. He also starred in the productions. His songs Give my regards to Broadway, Yankee Doodle Dandy and You're a Grand Old Flag were surrounded by American flags.

The American flag is never linked to a single person or a party. It is linked to the nation's past, present, and future. Perhaps the idea of being born free is expressed the best in John Wayne's song "Face the flag" where it says that we should "Face the flag of stars and bars of red and white and blue. A flag that guarantees the rights for men like me and you". Whereas most of us were born free in the homeland or abroad (blood right: jus sanguinis), others seek to join our great American family because of their love and dedication to freedom, liberty, and justice. The stage of being free enables each one of us to find complete expression and to live up our God-given potential in every field of society without fearing oppression or paternalism. However, freedom is not free and it is our all duty to protect and defend the greatest gift of all: liberty.

"The liberties of our Country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair Inheritance from our worthy Ancestors: They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood; and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle; or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men."

The first American flag carried around the world flew on the ships "Lady Washington" and "Columbia" during the pioneering circumnavigation of the globe (1787 - 1790).

 

In 1909 an American flag was placed at the North Pole by Robert Peary.

 

The highest elevation on earth the American flag ever flew is the highest elevation in the world, Mount Everest. It was placed on top of the mountain by Barry Bishop in 1963.

 

Five years later the flag was placed on the moon by Neil Armstrong.