The Fourth of July and the History of the United States Flag

The Fourth of July is quickly approaching and in light of this important flag flying holiday it is important to look back on the history of our nations flag and its significance.

The Stars and Stripes first originated with the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia on June 14, 1777, when they decided 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.”

However their decision did not dictate how many points the stars should have or how the stars should be arranged on the blue union. This meant that some flags had stars scattered on the blue field without any design, some arranged the stars in rows, and some in a circle. The first Navy national flag had the stars arranged in staggered formation in alternate rows of threes and twos on a blue field. Other flags had stars arranged in alternate rows of four, five and four. And while no one is completely sure of who originated the final design for the stars on the flag, evidence indicates that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey was responsible for the stars in the U.S. flag. Hopkinson also helped design other devices for the Government including the Great Seal of the United States.

Betsy Ross famously sewed the first official government version of the United States flag, its appearance has altered over the years due to the addition of more states. Currently the flag has 13 horizontal stripes — 7 red and 6 white — with the red and white stripes alternating and a union which consists of white stars of 5 points on a blue field placed in the upper quarter next to the staff and extending to the lower edge of the fourth red stripe from the top. The proportions of the flag were enacted by an Executive Order of President Eisenhower on August 21, 1959, and are as follows:

Hoist (width) of flag………………1.0
Fly (length) of flag…………………1.9
Hoist (width) of union……………0.5385
Fly (length) of union………………0.76
Width of each stripe……………..0.0769
Diameter of each star…………..0.0616

When flying the United States flag it is important to always remember the proper etiquette — especially on a holiday! So while you celebrate the holiday with your friends and family, keep in mind the history of our flag and our country.

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