Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
American Flag, Our Nation's Symbol
What truly patriotic American
does not get
a thrill to see the stars and stripes, our nation’s flag, flying in the
The evolution of the American flag as
we see it today had several significant dates and milestones along the
way. Let us consider a few of them.
On June 14,
1777, the first Flag Act was passed
by the Continental Congress in session.
It read: “Resolved, That the flag
of the United States
be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be
thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new
Due to no records—or perhaps records
lost—we cannot be absolutely certain who designed and made the first
ordered by the Continental Congress.
Congressman Francis Hopkinson is credited with designing it, but
is no concrete evidence to this attribution.
All the stories and books we’ve read
about the Philadelphia
seamstress, Betsy Ross, who made the flag that rallied the
soldiers may have not contained the full truth about the originator of
flag. History tends to get rewritten at
times, or adequate records proving facts get lost or misplaced. We are told now that “few historians believe
that Betsy Ross made the first flag.”
(from “Evolution of the United States Flag,” at:
usflag.org./history). I regret
these doubts, for as a school child,
and also as a teacher, I can remember loving the story of Betsy Ross
The next act of record was in the US
Congress on January
which stipulated that the flag have “15 stripes and 15 stars after May
1795.” The reason for this addition was
to recognize the states of Vermont
(entered the Union March
4, 1791) and Kentucky
(entered the Union June
1, 1792). It had taken two
years to make this change including the new states, and it proved, as
see later, to be a rather unwise move on the part of the Congress, for
could not be added with each state that came into the Union. It would
have made the flag too large, as
states were being added frequently to the growing nation.
Eventually, the stripes went back to
thirteen, to represent the original colonies of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia,
New York, North Carolina,
and Rhode Island.
These states are listed in the order they officially joined the Union from December 7, 1787 through May 29, 1790.
An Act of Congress on April 4, 1818 cancelled out
the fifteen stripes from the act of 1794, and called for the original
stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.
This act also provided for the addition to
the flag of a star to represent each state.
The flag was to be updated on the 4th of July each
each new state was added. James Monroe,
5th president, signed this bill into law.
When he signed the bill there were twenty
states in the Union.
In addition to the 13 original colonies,
Vermont (1791) and Kentucky (1792), Tennessee joined on June 1, 1796,
March 1, 1803, Louisiana on April 30, 1812, Indiana on December 11,
Mississippi on December 10, 1817.
The next Act was an Executive Order by
President William Howard Taft, 27th
president, dated June
24, 1912, establishing standard proportions to the flag. Prior to that, there was no standard
size. This act also asked for
arrangement of the white stars in the field of blue, representing the
set in six horizontal rows of eight stars per row.
This was, of course, after the nation had
grown to 48 states. It was directed that
a single point of each star point upward in the new design. Arizona
had been added to the Union as the 48th
state on February
But the states were to grow by two
more states, Alaska,
added January 3, 1959
August 21, 1959. While President Dwight D. Eisenhower served
as president, he signed two executive orders regarding the flag, which
provision for the two new states added during his administration. On January 3, 1959 his order provided for the
stars in seven rows of seven stars each,
“staggered horizontally and vertically.”
Then seven months later, on August 21, 1959, his executive order
asked for “nine rows
of stars staggered horizontally and eleven rows of stars staggered
Since the design of the flag in 1959
that included all fifty states, with a star for each, we have had no
our beloved national banner.
Henry Ward Beecher, noted American
writer and minister, wrote in 1861 just prior to the Civil War when our
was about to be split asunder: “Our flag
carries American ideas, American history, and American feelings. It is not a painted rag. It
is a whole national history. It is the
Constitution. It is the Government. It is the emblem of the sovereignty of the
people. It is the nation.”
We know that some of the statements of
statesman Beecher are highly metaphorical and symbolic.
As we see the flag, may we be moved, as he
was, to remember that it is a representation of a strong union of the
It has inspired in battle and in peacetime.
“Long may it wave!”
Jones; published Jan.
13, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA.
permission. All rights reserved.
Jones is a retired educator,
freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA
Updated January 14. 2011
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