No one knows with absolute certainty who designed the first stars and stripes or who made it. Congressman Francis Hopkinson seems most likely to have designed it, and few historians now believe that Betsey Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, made the first one.
Until the Executive Order of June 24, 1912, neither the order of the stars nor the proportions of the flag was prescribed. Consequently, flags dating before this period sometimes show unusual arrangements of the stars and odd proportions, these features being left to the discretion of the flag maker. In general, however, straight rows of stars and proportions similar to those later adopted officially were used. The principal acts affecting the flag of the United States are the following:
--On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: "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."
--Act of January 13, 1794 - provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.
--Act of April 4, 1818 - provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state, signed by President Monroe.
--Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 - established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.
--Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.
--Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizon tally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.
The following, written by Ruth Apperson Rous, pretty much says it all:
I am the Flag
I am the flag of the United States of America.
I was born on June 14, 1777, in Philadelphia.
There the Continental Congress adopted my stars and stripes as the national flag.
My thirteen stripes alternating red and white, with a union of thirteen white stars in a field of blue, represented a new constellation, a new nation dedicated to the personal and religious liberty of mankind.
Today fifty stars signal from my union, one for each of the fifty sovereign states in the greatest constitutional republic the world has ever known.
My colors symbolize the patriotic ideals and spiritual qualities of the citizens of my country.
My red stripes proclaim the fearless courage and integrity of American men and boys and the self-sacrifice and devotion of American mothers and daughters.
My white stripes stand for liberty and equality for all.
My blue is the blue of heaven, loyalty, and faith.
I represent these eternal principles: liberty, justice, and humanity.
I embody American freedom: freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press, and the sanctity of the home.
I typify that indomitable spirit of determination brought to my land by Christopher Columbus and by all my forefathers - the Pilgrims, Puritans, settlers at James town and Plymouth.
I am as old as my nation.
I am a living symbol of my nation's law: the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.
I voice Abraham Lincoln's philosophy: "A government of the people, by the people, for the people."
I stand guard over my nation's schools, the seedbed of good citizenship and true patriotism.
I am displayed in every schoolroom throughout my nation; every schoolyard has a flag pole for my display.
Daily thousands upon thousands of boys and girls pledge their allegiance to me and my country.
I have my own law—Public Law 829, "The Flag Code" - which definitely states my correct use and display for all occasions and situations.
I have my special day, Flag Day. June 14 is set aside to honor my birth.
Americans, I am the sacred emblem of your country. I symbolize your birthright, your heritage of liberty purchased with blood and sorrow.
I am your title deed of freedom, which is yours to enjoy and hold in trust for posterity.
If you fail to keep this sacred trust inviolate, if I am nullified and destroyed, you and your children will become slaves to dictators and despots.
Eternal vigilance is your price of freedom.
As you see me silhouetted against the peaceful skies of my country, remind yourself that I am the flag of your country, that I stand for what you are - no more, no less.
Guard me well, lest your freedom perish from the earth.
Dedicate your lives to those principles for which I stand: "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
I was created in freedom. I made my first appearance in a battle for human liberty.
God grant that I may spend eternity in my "land of the free and the home of the brave" and that I shall ever be known as "Old
Glory," the flag of the United States of America.
And another, by an anonymous author, does an equally good job:
am the flag of the United States of America.
When I am flown with my fellow banners,
My head is
a little higher,
recognized all over the world.
I have fought in every battle, of every war,
for more then 200 years.
I was flown at Valley Forge,
Gettysburg, Shiloh and Appomattox.
I was there at San Juan Hill, the trenches of France,
in the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome
and the beaches of Normandy.
The battlegrounds of Guam, Okinawa,
Korea and Vietnam know me.
I'm presently in the mountains of Afghanistan
and the hot and dusty deserts of Iraq,
wherever freedom is needed.
my soldiers cheered me and I was proud.
I have been burned, torn and trampled on the
I have helped set free.
trampled in the streets of my country.
served in battle - it hurts.
But I shall
I am strong.
and stood watch over the uncharted frontiers
from my vantage point on the moon.
finest hours are yet to come.
comrades on the battlefield,
This time of year, as we celebrate the founding of our great nation, it is appropriate to review “flag etiquette.” The Flag Code, which formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. They are:
The American's Creed, by William Tyler Page, is not seen that much these days, but it pretty much says it all as well:
"I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the people by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a Republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies."
The author of the American's Creed was a descendant of John Page, who had come to America in 1650 and had settled in Williamsburg, Virginia. Another ancestor, Carter Braxton , had signed the Declaration of Independence. Still another ancestor, John Tyler, was the tenth president of the United States. William Tyler Page had come to Washington at the age of thirteen to serve as a Capitol Page. Later he became an employee of the Capitol building and served in that capacity for almost sixty-one years. In 1919 he was elected clerk of the House. Thirteen years later, when the Democrats again became a majority party, they created for Page the office of minority clerk of the House of Representatives. He held this position for the remainder of his life.
The following simple words, however, is all one needs to say to give thanks to those who fought to create the United States of America from thirteen somewhat diverse English colonies, and to the many military men and women who have fought since to keep it safe.
“I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the
United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
with liberty and justice for all.”