The history of the United States flag dates back centuries, to the time of the revolution when American colonists sought to separate from the British Empire. However, for more than 245 years, the flag has undergone many changes as the nation has changed in geography and people. Since 1777, the official flag has been modified 26 times, with the latest version being used since 1959.
Each part of the flag has its own particular meaning with current and historical references to the country. The thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red from top to bottom represent the original thirteen British colonies that rebelled against England. Moreover, the 50 stars stand for the 50 states of the country, with new stars being added over time when new states were adopted.
“Old Glory” has come to symbolize American national pride and is a staple in government buildings, airports, schools, stadiums and various rallies across the country.
For many years, it was believed that seamstress Betsy Ross sowed the first official American flag after the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution in June 1777. Scholars and historians have determined that it is unlikely that Betsy Ross herself sowed the first flag of the Union, according to National Geographic. However, Ross did design several flags for the Pennsylvania navy during the revolution.
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“Every historian who’s looked into it has found no credible evidence that Betsy Ross made the first American flag, or helped design it, or even that there was a flag committee,” said journalist and historian Marc Leepson to National Geographic. “It could have existed, but there is no evidence whatsoever.”
The Continental Congress stated in their resolution that the first official flag would have thirteen stripes, alternate red and white and that “the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”
While it is unlikely that Betsy Ross created the first American flag, she was a significant figure in U.S. flag-making for decades. In May 1777, the Pennsylvania State Navy Board commissioned Ross to sew flags, and over the course of her life, she was paid by the government to continue her work. General George Washington himself was also an early admirer of the Ross flag design.
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Therefore, there is no original Betsy Ross flag that exists, but a replica can be found at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, according to the National Flag Foundation.
More than a hundred years after the Second Continental Congress passed the flag resolution that gave birth to the modern Stars and Stripes, President Wilson commemorated the event by establishing Flag Day as a national holiday in 1916. The next Flag Day will occur on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.
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