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The History of the Stars and Stripes

Updated on December 15, 2017
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

It was during the American Revolution that the leaders of the colonies and General George Washington saw the need to have a symbol of the thirteen colonies that would show the British that they were united and a unique entity of their own.

The reason for a flag was mainly to show unity and stand out on the field. The flag drew the attention of the eye and brought about feelings of pride, courage, and even fear if you were the enemy. The group seeking independence needed a flag they could stand behind. They needed one that would inspire them and call them into action. The result was the Stars and Stripes that grace all our national buildings today.


Not Really Betsy Ross

History attributes Betsy Ross as the original maker of the American flag, though Washington and other men designed it after a failure of a previous design that was a little too English for many of the colonists’ tastes.

Over the years the telling of that initial meeting has become murky with tradition and myth. Originally Washington wanted a six pointed star. Legend has it that Mrs. Ross said that it would be more efficient in cutting and making the star if it was just five pointed. Other than that change, supposedly the design has basically remained the same over the years. It is the design that tells a story within itself.


The Description of the Flag

Without looking, what does the American flag look like? What are the colors? What geometrical shapes are included? Why does it look this way?

The American flag consists of red, white, and blue colors. Each color has its own representation. Red symbolizes courage and valor. It took that to fight their own motherland. It took that to risk their life and shed their blood so that their children could hold their heads high. White represents purity and trust. They rejected the dishonest dealings of a government and tried to establish a purer one. Blue stands for justice and vigilance. Justice is what they saw pass them by. With vigilance they took it back.

In addition to the colors, there are 13 stripes of alternating white and red. These represent the original 13 colonies who risked everything to stand on their own. It was these 13 that should never be forgotten as history marches on: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware, New Jersey, New York.

The stars that grace the blue field of valor are the only thing that has changed over the years. With each new state admitted into the Union, one new star has been added to the flag. You could say, that history can be told just with those stars.


Flying High

All government buildings and vehicles have to fly Stars and Stripes. They cannot take it down unless dictated by the President. Each day a new flag is flown at the White House.

It can be found over embassies, courthouses, battleships, and emblazoned on aircraft. A brand new flag is flown everyday over the nation’s capital. It covers the coffins of the fallen. It flaps in the breeze at half-mast in mourning. It is the symbol of a young nation forged through blood and determination.


Respecting the Flag

Since the beginning, respect has been given to the flag. It is not the actual flag itself that the respect is given but to the ideas, promises, and those who had died to bring it about and preserve it. To those early in America's life, the flag symbolized the struggle for independence and the pride they felt achieving it.

Traditional respect for the flag is given in a number of ways. The main act is to never let the flag get dirty or touch the ground. If you do, you are to burn it and use a new one.

It also should never be left out in bad weather. Technically, any rain should have the flag brought down and safely stored until the precipitation has cleared.


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    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 2 months ago from Wisconsin

      You are very welcome :)

    • Gregory DeVictor profile image

      Gregory DeVictor 2 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      I just read your detailed and informative hub about History of the Stars & Stripes. I must also thank you for giving me a brilliant idea of how to properly document source information to a hub that I also recently published. I see that you have a capsule at the bottom of your article that properly documents your sources. Fantastic! I just added a similar capsule to my hub about Old Erie Trivia. Now I will sleep better at night. Thanks again.