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The History of the American Flag

The Continental Congress passed an act to establish an official flag for the new nation on June 14, 1777. While the origin of the first American flag is unknown, some historians attribute the design to New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson and the sewing of the first flag to Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross. Between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several acts that changed the flag’s shape, design, and arrangement; these acts also allowed stars to be added to reflect each new state. Today, the American flag has 13 horizontal stripes, which represent the original 13 colonies, and 50 stars, which represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors are also symbolic – red stands for hardiness and valor; white stands for purity and innocence; and blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The American flag is often referred to as Old Glory. Originally, the name was given to a large, 10-by-17-foot flag by its owner, William Driver, a sea captain from Massachusetts. Today, the original Old Glory is a primary artifact at the Museum of American History. Another famous flag is the large 1814 garrison flag that survived the 25-hour shelling of Fort McHenry in Baltimore by British troops. That flag inspired Francis Scott Key to compose “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sept. 14, 1814. It officially became America’s national anthem in 1931. In 1892, the flag also inspired James B. Upham and Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. Today, the American flag is flown in a variety of places across the nation and all over the world – the American flag has even been flown on the moon!

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