The United States Flag

In the midst of the Revolutionary War on June 14, 1777, the U.S. Continental Congress officially established the American flag. President Harry S. Truman later honored the United States flag by declaring June 14 National Flag Day. In celebration of Flag Day, here is some interesting information about the United States flag. 

History

Although the exact origins of the original U.S flag are unknown, it is believed by some that New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson designed it and seamstress Betsy Ross sewed it. The first American flag was owned by Massachusetts sea captain William Driver who called it Old Glory, a catching name that is now applied to American flags all across the nation. 

The current flag has thirteen alternating red and white stripes and 50 white stars on top of a blue square in the upper right hand corner of the flag. The thirteen stripes represent the thirteen original colonies while the stars exemplify each U.S. state. The flag originally only had thirteen stars. However, between 1777-1960, a period spanning almost 200 years, the white stars were continually added and rearranged on the flag as new states joined the union. The colors are also significant: red – hardiness and valor, blue – vigilance, perseverance, and justice, and white – purity and innocence. 

How to Display the Flag

There are a number of rules regarding how the U.S. flag should be displayed. Here are a few of them. When carried in a parade on a staff, the flag must be on the marching right or the center when there are other flags. The staff should be held so that the flag can float free. If on a float, the flag must hang and never drape over a vehicle. When the flag drapes down and isn’t on a staff, the blue should be at the top and it should face north or east – this depends on the direction of the street. A United States flag mixed with other flags must always be higher than the other flags with the exception of a Christian flag on a Navy ship when a chaplain conducts the service. 

Other Flag Rules

Here are a few things one should and should not do with or to the United States flag. 

  • Never dip the flag to salute
  • Never let the Union be down unless signaling distress
  • Never let it touch anything beneath it
  • Never let it get dirty and destroyed
  • Never add anything to the flag
  • Never use it to hold other things
  • Always carry it aloft horizontally 
  • Always burn a flag if it is ruined 
  • Always stand at attention and salute or put your hand over your heart when a flag is being hoisted or passing you in a parade
  • Always fly the flag “sunrise to sunset” unless the weather is bad (If properly lighted, it can be flown all the time, weather permitting)
  • Always gold the flag in a triangle when it is not being flown 

Other Cool Facts

The flag has changed 27 times since it was adopted in 1777. As previously mentioned, these changes were due to states being added. At first, they added stripes as well as stars to the flag for each state, but in 1818, they decided it was best to only add stars. After all the star additions, the original flag design supposedly created by Hopkinson needed to be modified, so in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower allowed people to submit new potential designs. The winner was Robert G. Heft, a 17-year-old boy from Ohio who created the current 50 star and 13 stripe flag design we have today. 

The Pledge of Allegiance

To honor and accompany the flag, the American Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy in 1882. The original words were: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1923, the words “the flag of the United States of America” were added. In 1954, Eisenhower convinced Congress to add the words “one nation under God” giving us the current version. 

Below is a quick breakdown of the significance in each line. 

“I pledge allegiance” – I will remain loyal to

“to the flag of the United States of America” – the flag that represents the 50 states we call the USA

“and to the Republic for which it stands” – that we live in a country where we can choose who represents us

“one nation” -there are 50 states, but only one country

“under God” – God willing we will remain a nation

“indivisible” – cannot be divided

“with liberty” – with freedom

“and justice” – all citizens are to be treated fairly

“For all” – everyone who is a citizen whether by birth or naturalization

When reciting the pledge, non-military people should put their right hand over their heart. Originally when said, people were to put their hand and over their heart and then extend it to the flag with the palm down, however that was quickly changed as it looked to much like the Nazi salute. 

The United States flag and its pledge are important symbols of this great country in which we live. Many people now are refusing to recite the pledge for various reasons. Knowing the background, I would highly encourage you to say the pledge with honor when it is being spoken. However, if you choose not to, I hope you remember the men and women who died to give you the freedom not to recite the American pledge.