American flags have been used for centuries, telling stories of the nation's past and representing its collective spirit. With their bold stars and stripes, they are reminders of patriotism, bravery, courage and freedom. In this article, we explore the history behind some of America's most popular flags and give special insight into their unique meanings.
U.S. Flag of 1777
The Flag of 1777 is an iconic representation of American history and patriotism. It consists of 13 stars arranged on a field of blue in the upper left corner, with alternating stripes in red and white on the rest of the flag. The 13 stars represent the original thirteen colonies that declared their independence from Great Britain and formed the United States of America.
These thirteen colonies sewed the first Flags of 1777 themselves. As a result, the flags varied in size and design as each colony was responsible for their own making. These handmade flags commonly featured 5 or 6-pointed stars, stripes of alternating colors, or other patterns that paid tribute to diverse American values and ideologies. The Flag of 1777 has since been immortalized by our nation’s military and remains the symbol of freedom and unity for all Americans today.
Grand Union Flag (1775-1776)
The Grand Union Flag, also known as the Continental Colors, was used by the colonies prior to the adoption of the Star-Spangled Banner in 1777. It has 13 alternating horizontal red and white stripes with a British naval ensign canton featuring the familiar red cross design on a field of blue. This flag stood as a symbol of patriotism and defiance of the king’s authority.
This flag was flown for the first time at the headquarters of George Washington in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on New Year’s Day
Star-Spangled Banner (1814-1815)
The Star-Spangled Banner served as the official flag of the United States from 1814 to 1815. It features fifteen stars and fifteen white and red stripes in honor of the original thirteen colonies. It has become an iconic symbol of American independence, unforgettable for its role in inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the related "Star-Spangled Banner" lyrics while observing it during a battle at Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.
This flag was made by Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore businesswoman and flag maker. It was commissioned for the fort by William Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry during the War of
The 38-Star Flag (1877-1890)
The 38-Star Flag was the official United States Flag from 1877 to 1890. It features stars arranged in a circle with thirteen diamonds representing each of the original colonies and 25 states. This flag is especially popular today as it symbolizes an important milestone for the country - when Colorado officially joined the Union in 1876, it marked the first time 13 stripes were featured on the U.S. flag in over 60 years!
The 38-Star Flag, despite its brief & relatively unpopular usage compared to the earlier and more iconic Stars & Stripes, is still venerated by many in the U.S. A great example of this is the Colorado State Capitol Building located in Denver, CO. As a fitting tribute to both the state and the flag, it was built between 1887-1894 while this particular version of America’s banner was in service. Today, visitors to the edifice are treated to red sandstone walls and bronze eagles proudly emblazoned with the 38 stars - a lasting reminder of America’s past and the grandiose journey of nationhood it endured!
The 53-Star Flag (1959-1960)
The 53-Star Flag was the official U.S. Flag from 1959 to 1960, and was flown after Alaska and before Hawaii officially joined the Union. It is composed of nine alternating long stripes featuring five stars at each peak, making a total of 53 stars that placed five rows in an X-formation. It is said to symbolize the dreams and aspirations of a young nation made up of 50 states with unlimited possibilities.
The 53-Star Flag was also an important symbol of hope. Its prominent position in the nation’s capital, atop the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., was recognition that a bright future for the United States was indeed within its reach. Before it served as the official U.S. Flag, it had been flown by many from coast to coast with gusto and patriotic pride; this continued even after it was replaced by the 50-star flag when Hawaii officially joined the Union. To this day, old 53-Star Flags may still be seen popping up around America as a reminder of a time when their was a sense of promise and opportunity everywhere one looked.