Monday, June 14, 2010

Flag Origins

The Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777, stated: “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.”

 You will notice that this does not state whether the red or white stripes should be at the top and bottom, or how many points the stars should have. It wasn’t until June 24, 1912, that the proportions of the flag were established, and it was specified that the stars were to be in horizontal rows with a single point of each star pointing upward.

If you go here, you’ll find a wonderful collection of 18th century flag images. You may notice that none look like the ubiquitous “Betsy Ross” flag.


Which brings us to Betsy Ross. It wasn’t until shortly before the Centennial that the story about Betsy Ross making the first American flag for General George Washington surfaced. In 1870, Ross's grandson claimed that his grandmother had "made with her hands the first flag" of the United States. He said he first obtained this information from his aunt Clarissa Wilson in 1857, twenty years after Betsy Ross's death.

There is no documentation to show that the Betsy Ross flag was ever carried in any battle. We don’t have proof that she designed it. We do know, however, that Betsy Ross was a seamstress, and that she sewed (among other things) flags.

So who did design the first American flag? We’re not sure, but:

Hopkinson never got his wine. In their report to Congress, the Treasury Board stated that Hopkinson was not the only person consulted on those designs that were incidental to the board and that in their opinion, civil servants such as Hopkinson already received adequate salaries and hence should not expect further compensation from Congress for such work.

The idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. You can find out the details here. It was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.



  1. I visited the Betsy Ross House whilst in PA over spring break, and they did mention that there was a little bit of ambiguity over the whole deal. In any case it was an interesting little museum.

  2. "A little bit of ambiguity".

    That's a "little bit" of an understatement.

  3. Not if you listened to the museum.


    Not that I listened to the museum. I'm just passing it along...