- Politics and Social Issues
The Official Symbols of The United States of America
The United States of America is rich in symbolism. Everything contained in the flag, and The Great Seal of the United States has a meaning. That meaning contains a wealth of information from our founding fathers.
Contained in the flag, and the great seal, are not only the colors of our nation, but messages. They contain messages of history, of how our country came into existence, and messages of freedom. The flag of the United States of America goes beyond “red, white, and blue.”
A meeting took place in the home of Betsy Ross in about May of 1776. Present in the meeting was George Washington the head of the Continental Army, Robert Morris an owner of a large amount of land, Colonel George Ross, and Betsy Ross herself (she owned an upholstery company). George Washington handed Betsy a drawing of what the flag should look like. On June 14th 1777 the flag of the United States of America became official.
Each star and stripe on the original U.S. flag represented a Colony of which there were thirteen, united nearly one year earlier by the Declaration of Independence. The thirteen Colonies are listed below with the date that each ratified the Constitution and became a state:
The first to be united: Delaware December 7th, 1787
The second to be united: Pennsylvania December 12th,1787
The third to be united: New Jersey December18th, 1787
The fourth to be united: Georgia January 2nd, 1788
The fifth to be united: Connecticut January 9th, 1788
The sixth to be united: Massachusetts February 6th, 1788
The seventh to be united: Maryland April 28th, 1788
The eighth to be united: South Carolina May 23rd, 1788
The ninth to be united: New Hampshire June 21st, 1788
The tenth to be united: Virginia June 25th, 1788
The eleventh to be united: New York July 25th, 1788
The twelfth to be united: North Carolina November 21st, 1789
The thirteenth to be united: Rhode Island May 29th, 1790
While the flag's colors did not have a specific meaning at the time, the colors were significant for the Great Seal of 1782.
White: Signifies purity and innocence.
Red: Signifies valor and bravery.
Blue: Signifies Vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated:
“The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."
The stripes are representative of the rays of light reaching out from the sun.
There are now 50 stars representing the 50 states and there are 13 stripes representing the 13 original colonies.
There is etiquette to follow with the flag:
You cannot use the flag for any advertising purpose.
If you are going to fly the flag at night, it has to be illuminated.
If the flag is worn and tattered, you should repair or dispose of it properly, preferably by burning it. The American Legion has a ceremony that properly disposes of such flags every year; often on Flag Day, June 14.
The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing, unless it is the ensign responding to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation.
The flag should not touch the ground.
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
Also on Memorial Day it is common to fly the flag at half-staff, until noon, in remembrance of those who lost their lives in war while fighting for the U.S.
The bald eagle
The bald eagle became the official bird to The United States of America in 1782. The bald eagle was chosen because of its majestic beauty, great strength, long life, and because it's native to North America.
In 1784, Benjamin Franklin spoke his opinion about the bird. He wanted the turkey to become the official bird. However, the bald eagle remained.
It was President John F. Kennedy that later stated, “The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."
Great Seal of the United States
The Great Seal of the United States was adopted in 1782. The Great Seal of the United States contains ten features of thirteen. The number thirteen represents the thirteen colonies.
Charles Thomson wrote this while presenting the final design for adoption by Congress:
“The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue, the colour of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice. The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress. The Constellation denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers. The Escutcheon is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue.”
Inside the birds beak, reads a scroll : E pluribus unum meaning "Out of Many, One”
The eagle has its head turned towards the olive branch, said to symbolize a preference for peace.
Uncle Sam is a national personification of the American government, and the term was used in the Civil War in 1812.
He is an older man, with white hair, and clothes that look like the U.S. flag. The image of Uncle Sam was shown publicly for the first time, according to some, in a picture by Flagg on the cover of the magazine Leslie's Weekly, on July 6, 1916, with the caption "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?" More than four million copies of this image were printed between 1917 and 1918.
The National Christmas Tree-General Grant tree
A man with the name of Charles E. Lee was visiting the General Grant National Park in 1924. He looked up at the tall tree in wonder. He noticed a little girl standing next to him, looking up at that tree. The little girl shouted, “"what a wonderful Christmas tree it would be!"
About a year later an idea was born. A ceremony was then taking place at the General Grant National Park every year. It has become an annual ceremony.
Mr. Lee wrote President Calvin Coolidge, and on April 28th 1926, the General Grant Tree was born as nation's Christmas tree.
United States of America’s national creed
Within each one of these symbols, a story can be told. The stories derived from the very thought of freedom.
In 1917, a man named William Tyler Page wrote The American's Creed as an entry to a patriotic contest. This famous quote is known to many: “I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies”
It became adopted on April 3, 1918 as The United States of America’s national creed.
Other official symbols for the United States of America include:
National flower: The Rose became official on September 23, 1986. President Ronald Reagan signed the resolution into law on October 7, 1986 in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
National tree: The oak tree became official in 2004.
The Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Inside the bell contains the words (part of Leviticus 25:10) "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."
The Liberty Bell also contains the names of the men that once fixed the bell: John Pass and John Stow. The bell is a symbol of freedom and independence.
The Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty, originally named "Liberty Enlightening the World," was a gift from France, unveiled on 28 October 1886.