Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Flag of the United States

Flag of the United States of America
Ratio: 10:19; Nicknames: Stars and Stripes, Old Glory

The flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed starss arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars. The 50 stars represent the 50 states and the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies.

It is commonly called the "Stars and Stripes" and less commonly "Old Glory." Because the name "Old Glory" technically refers to the 48-star version used from 1912 to 1959, this usage connotes the history of the flag. The flag has gone through many changes since 13 of the English colonies in North America first adopted it.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Symbolism
3 Influences on other flags
4 See also
5 External links


On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: "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 Constellation." Describing the new flag, the Congress wrote, "White signifies Purity and Innocence; Red, Hardiness and Valor; Blue signifies Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice." Flag Day is now observed on June 14 of each year.

As further states entered the union, extra stars have appeared, but the number of stripes has remained at the original thirteen. The exception was the 15-star flag, which also had 15 stripes. It was the 15-star flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner," now the national anthem.

When the flag design changes, the change always takes place on July 4 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a consequence of the Flag Act of April 4, 1818. July 4, the United States Independence Day, commemorates the founding of the nation. The most recent change, from forty-nine stars to fifty, occurred in 1960, after Hawaii gained statehood. Before that, the admission of Alaska the year before prompted the debut of a short-lived 49-star flag.

The flag flew in battle for the first time, at Cooch's Bridge in Maryland on September 3, 1777 during the American Revolutionary War.

The British historian Sir Charles Fawcett has suggested that the design of the flag may have been derived from the flag and jack of the British East India Company.


To U.S. citizens, their flag symbolizes many things. They have seen it as representing all of the freedoms and rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Perhaps most of all they see it as a symbol of individual and personal liberty like those put forth in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

The approved method of destroying old and tattered flags consists of burning them in a simple ceremony. Burning the flag has also been used to as a deliberate act of disrespect, at times to protest actions by the United States government. Some groups concerned by these actions have proposed a Flag Burning Amendment that would outlaw burning the flag in disrespect or protest.

Influences on other flags

The design and colors of the American "Stars and Stripes" have been the basis for a number of other flags, both past and present, some of which appear below:

Note especially the echoes in the colors and designs of several of the Flags of the Confederate States of America.

See also

External links