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The American Flag
By Sarah Lane
Jun 29, 2008, 12:36 PST

The American Flag

The American Flag


Where exactly did our national flag come from?  Believe it or not, no one knows!  Historians ventured a guess and thought perhaps a man named Francis Hopkinson designed it.  It was also believed that a seamstress from Philadelphia named Betsy Ross hand-sewed the first official flag.  It is certain that a man named Francis Scott Key wrote the words to the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, a song about the flag.  It wasn’t until June 24th, 1912 that an Executive Order was given recognizing the flag as our national symbol. 


There were many variations of the flag flown as the country was formed, but finally on June 14th, 1777 (Flag Day or the Flag’ s Birthday), the final design was established.  The American Flag began with 13 stripes of alternating red and white, and 13 white stars in a blue field.  This represented the ‘New Constellation’ that was the 13 colonies.  It wasn’t until August 21st, 1959 that President Dwight D. Eisenhower provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows staggered horizontally and 11 rows staggered vertically as we see the flag today.


Flag Day originated when a schoolteacher arranged for his pupils to celebrate the ‘Flag’s Birthday’ on the anniversary of the ‘Stars and Stripes,’ on June 14th.  In 1894 the governor of New York directed that on this day the Flag be displayed on all public buildings.  Finally in 1942, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance, although one year later the Supreme Court would rule that school kids could not be forced to recite it.


What do you need to know about the American Flag?  That it is to be respected and all flag etiquette should be observed when handling one.  Never fly a flag when the weather is bad and never fly one upside down.  This symbolizes a distress signal and should only be used when harm is befalling you or your possessions.  It is especially important to recognize the flag during Independence Day, as it symbolizes freedom to all American citizens.

Source:     National Museum of American History    

Additional Learning Links for The American Flag


The Flag of the U.S.

Read the Pledge of Allegiance in English, German, Spanish, French, and more.  Also read the history of the evolution of the flag and learn why the flag became known as “Old Glory.”  There are government sites, virtual tours, patriotic writings, and all sorts of flag etiquette.

Source:              Duane Streufert

Reading Level:   Moderate


Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross Homepage

Here you will find the history of the flag, quotes and notes from the life of Betsy Ross, the American flag picture gallery, activities, flag trivia, a timeline, and a virtual tour of Betsy’s house.

Source:              Independence Hall Association

Reading Level:   Moderate


Flag History

This PBS special has interesting tidbits of information regarding the history of the flag.  Also learn all about ‘A Capital Fourth’ which is the celebration that takes place in Washington D.C. each 4th of July.  Take the puzzle challenge and unscramble the picture or create your very own musical fireworks display on the computer.

Source:              PBS & Capital Concerts

Reading Level:   Easy


The Star Spangled-Banner

Find out how we are preserving flags from our nation’s history or solve the mystery of why the flag was altered and if there was battle damage.  Take the 10-question quiz to determine how much you really know about our country’s flag.

Source:              National Museum of American History

Reading Level:   Moderate

© Copyright 2008 by

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