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History of the American Flag

Every school child knows Betsy Ross sewed the first American Flag. Or did she?

The Stars and Stripes of the American Flag originated as a result of a resolution adopted by the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia on June 14, 1777. The resolution stated:

Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.

That is the entire resolution - with no instruction given as to how many points the stars should have or how the stars should be arranged. Therefore, some early American flags had stars scattered on the blue field without any specific design, some arranged the stars in rows, and some in a circle. The first Navy ships flying the Stars and Stripes had the stars arranged in staggered formation in alternate rows of threes and twos on a blue field. Other interpretations had stars arranged in alternate rows of four, five and four. On some flags, the stars had six points and on others, the stars had eight.

But, what about the traditional Betsy Ross circle of stars flag? Wasn't that the first American Flag design? There are several historical papers citing sources and documents disputing the "Betsy Ross" flag, and dismissing her relatives' tales of its making as nothing but a story told by her Grandson, and adopted by an overeager public as true. An interesting, though admittedly biased, web page (it's sponsored by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia) offers a Point-Counterpoint article on the creation of the first American Flag. Regardless of how or by whom you feel the first flag was created, this section of the Betsy Ross site offers some great historical information and makes an interesting read.

This same site offers a page on Flag Rules and Regulations with a great animated image that takes you through the proper folding of the American flag step by step.

The Fort McHenry National Monument offers the Federal Flag Code in its entirety on their web site. The American Legion also offers a comprehensive American Flag site with a full-version of the Flag code available as a down loadable PDF or DOC file. And, the National Flag Foundation offers additional information on Flag Etiquette as well as Resources for Educators.

And, finally, The Smithsonian National Museum of American History offers a comprehensive section on "The Star Spangled Banner" - the Flag that Inspired the National Anthem.