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U.S. Inside/Background

The U.S. Flag - The Star Spangled Banner

There were some flag designs before the American colonies became independent on July 4th, 1776. An independence activists group called the Sons of Liberty used a flag with 13 alternating red and white stripes in 1775 which should represent the unity of the colonies. A Massachusetts Navy War Flag showed the New England Pine where nowadays the stars are. The so-called Grand Union Flag a.k.a. Continental flag of 1776 had the British Union Jack in the upper left corner and the 13 stripes.

It was not before June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act, which introduced the Flag of the new nation as a flag with thirteen alternating red and white stripes and thirteen white stars on a blue field in the upper left corner. The first design was named after Congressman Francis Hopkinson. However, there are different opnions about if the stars were shown as a ring of stars or ordered in rows. The 13 represented states were: DE, PA, NJ, GA, CT, MA, MD, SC, NH, VA, NY, NC, RI.

The 13 stripes for the original states remain part of the U.S. flag until today. However there was one flag that had more: The flag used during the conflict with England from 1812-1815. This flag was the only 15 star/15 Stripes flag and the one that has flown over Fort McHenry (Baltimore) when British ships attacked. This specific flag triggered an even more interesting event. Francis Scott Key, who signs responsible for the text of the National Anthem, was inspired by this flag when he saw it the morning after the bombardment still flying over Fort McHenry.

Today the flag shows 50 stars, one for each state, and 13 alternating red and white stripes (beginning with red) for the original 13 colonies.


The U.S. Flag today

1775 Sons of Liberty

1775 New England Flag

1776 Continental Flag

1777 Francis Hopkinson Design



Document Information
Source: U.S. National Archives, Library of Congress
Last modified: 20040805
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