What Do The Colors Of The Us Flag Mean?

13 horizontal stripes, 7 red stripes alternating with 6 white ones, with a blue rectangle in the canton covered in 50 white, 5-pointed stars, comprise the United States' flag.

American Flag Facts

The United States flag is associated with rich American history and has changed appearance several times. While nobody is absolutely certain who made the first official flag, historians do know that during the Revolutionary War, different militias fought under different flags. These first flags ranged from a rattlesnake with the slogan, “Don’t Tread on Me,” to a pine tree with the phrase, “An Appeal to Heaven.” The idea of a national flag did not become an issue until Congress created the Continental Army in June of 1775 and George Washington flew the Continental Colors flag. The Continental Colors flag is believed to have had red and white stripes with the British Union Jack symbol, from the British national flag, in the upper left corner.

Who Created The American Flag?

Perhaps George Washington or Congress realized that flying a British symbol while seeking independence from England was not the best way to unite the newly forming country. In 1777, Congress passed the first Flag Resolution. It stated that the national flag would contain 13 alternating red and white stripes with a blue field in the upper left-hand corner. The blue field was to contain 13 white stars and represent a new constellation, a symbol for the new country. The number 13 was significant because it was the number of the first colonies. It is not clear, however, why the colors red, white, and blue were chosen. Who created the first flag based on the Congressional resolution? Local legend says that it was Betsy Ross after being asked by George Washington, but historians say there is not sufficient proof to support that claim.

Evolution of the Flag

After the war, additional states joined the Union, and the flag was adapted to reflect these changes. By 1794, two new states had joined, and Congress changed the description of the national flag to include 15 stripes and 15 stars. From 1794 until 1817, at least 4 more states had been added to the country. The flag, however, stayed the same until 1818 when Congress decided that the flag should have 13 stripes to honor the 13 original colonies and a white star to represent each state in the Union.

What Do The Colors Of The American Flag Mean?

Today, the flag continues to carry the 13 red and white alternating stripes and now displays 50 white, 5-pointed stars against a blue background, representing the 50 states. Although the colors of the flag did not originally hold a specific meaning, many people have since suggested the significance of the colors. Red represents valor and strength, white represents innocence and purity, and blue represents perseverance and justice. These are the same meanings attributed to the colors of the Great Seal. Other people suggest that the stars symbolize the heavens and the stripes symbolize rays of sunlight.

Flag Etiquette

An extensive flag code has been established surrounding the rules for proper display and use of the US flag. The flag should only be displayed outside from sunrise until sunset, raised quickly and lowered slowly. If the flag is flown at night, it should be illuminated with a light. When displayed with state or city flags, for example, the US flag must be higher than the others. This is not the case when flown with other nations, however. In this instance, the flags are flown from separate poles and at equal heights. In the presence of the flag, military members should give the military salute and civilians should face the flag with their right hand placed over their heart, after removing any hats. Many other etiquette guidelines exist, but these are some of the most common.

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