• Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • American Flag History | Carrot-Top Industries

American Flag History: An Ever-Evolving Canvas Of Freedom, Unity And Patriotism

Written by
Rob Brittain
Published on
March 3, 2021 6:00:00 AM PST March 3, 2021 6:00:00 AM PSTrd, March 3, 2021 6:00:00 AM PST

With its 13 stripes, its 50 stars and its red, white and blue color scheme, the American flag is an iconic symbol of freedom, unity and patriotism. While the basic design elements of the U.S. flag have remained constant since its inception, there have been 27 different versions of the American flag during its 244-year history, with the majority of those changes accounting for stars being added to the flag’s blue field as new states were added to the Union.


The Blueprint of a True, American Original

The origin story of the American flag began on June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress officially approved the first version of the American flag and resolved that it would consist of: 13 stripes that alternated in color between red and white and 13 white stars that were arranged “in a blue field representing a new constellation.” Both the 13 stripes and the 13 stars were representative of the 13 colonies that originally composed the United States of America.


While the colors used in the American flag bear no officially-recorded symbolism, here is the universally-accepted meaning of each color:

  • White represents purity
  • Red represents bravery
  • Blue represents justice and perseverance


Although the author of the original American flag specifications is unknown, historians suggest that Francis Hopkinson, both a Congressman and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, is the most likely American flag designer and visionary. Additional first-flag lore suggests that Betsy Ross was the seamstress who brought Hopkinson’s American flag design to life.


As additional seamstresses began to produce their own versions of the American flag, a key omission in the original design specifications quickly became evident: the 1777 Flag Resolution failed to specify the layout of the flag’s stars. Therefore, numerous “first versions” of the American flag quickly emerged, some with the stars arranged in a circular pattern and others with the stars arranged in a series of stacked rows.

 

Building on a Legacy: Changes Made to the Original American Flag Design

Despite its star specification oversight, the original blueprint for the American flag remained unchanged for almost 18 years. Then, on May 1, 1795, Congress declared that two new stripes (one

red, one white) and two new, white stars would be added to the American flag to reflect the addition of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union.


Almost 23 years later, on April 4, 1818, Congress fine-tuned the 1795 flag legislation by declaring that the American flag’s number of stripes would remain constant at 13, while its number of white stars would increase by one every time a state was added to the Union. In addition, the 1818 flag legislation resolved that any applicable new stars would be officially added to the flag on the Fourth of July following the state’s admission to the Union.


Other key American flag design changes that have occurred through the years include:

  • President William Howard Taft’s standardization of the size of the flag’s design elements, as well as its overall proportions, on October 29, 1912
  • The specification of the flag’s exact colors in 1934

 

A Timeline of Old Glory’s Design Evolution

Below is a timeline of how the American flag has changed in appearance, for a grand total of 27 times, since its creation in 1777 until its most recent change on July 4, 1960:

  • June 14, 1777: Original American flag design consisted of 13 stripes (seven red, six white) and a blue field with 13 stars
  • May 1, 1795: Two additional stripes (one red, one white) and two additional stars were added to the flag design to reflect the addition of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union.
  • April 13, 1818: The number of stripes on the American flag were standardized at 13 to represent the 13 original colonies of the Union and five stars were added to the flag (bringing the total number of stars to 20) to reflect the addition of Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana and Mississippi to the Union.
  • July 4, 1819: An additional star was added to reflect the addition of Illinois as the 21st state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1820: Two additional stars were added to reflect the additions of Alabama and Maine as the 22nd and 23rd states in the Union.
  • July 4, 1822: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Missouri as the 24th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1836: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Arkansas as the 25th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1837: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Michigan as the 26th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1845: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Florida as the 27th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1846: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Texas as the 28th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1847: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Iowa as the 29th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1848: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Wisconsin as the 30th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1851: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of California as the 31st state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1858: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Minnesota as the 32nd state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1859: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Oregon as the 33rd state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1861: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Kansas as the 34th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1863: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of West Virginia as the 35th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1865: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Nevada as the 36th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1867: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Nebraska as the 37th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1877: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Colorado as the 38th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1890: Five additional stars were added to the flag to reflect the additions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington and Idaho as the 39th, 40th, 41st, 42nd and 43rd states in the Union.
  • July 4, 1891: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Wyoming as the 44th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1896: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Utah as the 45th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1908: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Oklahoma as the 46th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1912: Two additional stars were added to the flag to reflect the additions of New Mexico and Arizona as the 47th and 48th states in the Union.
  • July 4, 1959: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Alaska as the 49th state in the Union.
  • July 4, 1960: An additional star was added to the flag to reflect the addition of Hawaii as the 50th state in the Union.

 

Could More Americans Flag Design Changes Be on the Horizon?

Although no design changes have been made to the American flag for more than 60 years, the possibility of future design changes exists should any of America’s territories such as Guam, American Samoa or the U.S. Virgin Islands earn their statehood in the future.


In celebration of all that the American flag symbolizes (history, freedom, democracy, unity, and patriotism), Carrot-Top Industries proudly flies the American flag every day of the year. In addition, as one of the country’s leading providers of American flags for both public and private displays, we offer a wide variety of American outdoor flags, indoor flags, flag sets, flag banners, mini flags and patriotic décor that are available for order online.


At Carrot-Top Industries, we invite you to create your own American flag display at your home or your office and we welcome the opportunity to meet your American flag needs. Please contact our Customer Care Professionals at 800-628-3524, shop online or send us your product needs either by email or through our Contact Our Team online form. We offer fast shipping on all of our in-stock American flag products.


Online References: 24/7WallStreet.com, Britannica.com, History.com, Kiddle Encyclopedia, PBS.org, Smithsonian Institute, U.S. Geological Survey

 

Email us at marketing@carrot-top.com to share your comments or questions about this blog. You may also email us if you have a topic you would like us to cover or are interested in submitting an article as a guest writer.