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Tag: history of us flag

The American Flag

Today’s post, in honor of Flag Day, comes from Alex Nieuwsma, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman highlights the annual Flag Day with an American flag waving among the light and dark clouds caused by the gunfire of battles. (National Archives Identifier 6011429)

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman highlighted the annual Flag Day with an American flag waving among the light and dark clouds caused by the gunfire of battles, June 14, 1918. (National Archives Identifier 6011429)

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Stars and Stripes as the National Flag of the United States of America. Through its many changes and iterations, the American flag has come to represent the physical geography of the nation by including as many stars as states, as well as a remembrance of the nation’s origins as seen in the 13 red and white stripes.

The American flag also serves as a reminder of what America and her citizens represent: liberty, equality, and justice.

Designed by Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the flag was originally intended to be used as a naval sign. However, growing nationalism around the world during the 18th century led many countries to establish a national flag, the United States included. It is unclear how or why Congress selected Hopkinson’s design for this honor.

The involvement of Betsy Ross in the design and creation of the first American flag is largely fictitious. It is likely that her grandson, William J. … [ Read all ]

A funny thing happened on the way to the Revolutionary War

"Betsy Ross making the first flag, 1776 [according to legend]" Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer
“Betsy Ross making the first flag, 1776 (according to legend)”


On New Year’s day in 1776, Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army were laying siege to the British-controlled city of Boston. From Prospect Hill, General Washington ordered the Grand Union flag hoisted “in compliment of the United Colonies,” accidentally ending the Revolutionary War.

Or so the British thought.

In Boston, a speech by King George that offered favorable terms of surrender for the colonialists was making the rounds. Loyalists in the besieged city were elated when they saw what looked like the Union Jack flying above General Washington’s encampment at Prospect Hill, taking it as a sign that the Continental forces has accepted the terms and were calling it quits.

Washington remarked on the event in a letter to Joseph Reed on January 4: “By this time, I presume, they begin to think it strange we have not made formal surrender of the lines.”

That the Grand Union flag was so easily mistaken for the British Union Jack made it clear that, certainly, the 13 colonies had a flag problem.

Thankfully, on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress took up the problem and declared “that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” … [ Read all ]