The History of the American Flag

By Julia A. Keirns

American Flag photo by Pixabay
American Flag photo by Pixabay

History changes the way other cultures view Americans, but our resolve stays the same generation after generation, and the flag is the one item that rises above all opinions and contradictions. It is a constant reminder of where we came from and how we got to where we are today. It symbolizes the freedoms we hold so dear.

As an American, the American flag is the most important artifact that holds deep strong meaning for me. Originally created by Betsy Ross in 1776, the flag idea and design were deliberated much with George Washington and other founding fathers. Exactly how Ross came to be the one person assigned this most important task is partly that she was already a flag maker and had been hired to make ship flags for the Navy. It seems that George Washington visited Ross in the early summer of 1776 to discuss the possibility of her sewing the flag for the new nation. The Declaration of Independence was read out loud on July 4, 1776, but it was not until June 14, 1777 that the Continental Congress officially adopted the new national flag, which is why Flag Day today is on June 14. There are not a lot of written records regarding the making of the flag as the first new Americans seemed indifferent to the symbol and it wasn’t actually until The Star Spangled Banner was written in 1812 that the flag truly became a symbol of hope and freedom for those first original occupants of the thirteen colonies.

When viewing the flag today with your eyes you see 50 bright white stars on a field of blue with 13 stripes, seven red and six white. When viewing that first original flag sewn by Betsy Ross it only contained 13 stars in the shape of a circle which symbolized a new union. Today we can hear the flag flapping in the breeze, just as they did all those years ago, and sometimes when the wind is strong enough you can hear the nylon material whip and snap and the metal eyelets ting against the metal flagpole. Holding an American flag today brings the feel of soft silky vinyl, sometimes cottony, but that first sewn flag was made of hemp cloth. They took the stalks of the cannibus plant and used the fibers to make the cloth. I imagine the feel of this being much rougher on the fingertips. Homespun hemp cloth was the finest and strongest available at the time. I imagine the first patriots could even taste that first flag as it blew in the wind and smelled of the cannibus plant, as if tasting freedom for the first time.

The red stripes of the flag officially signify bravery, hardiness and valour, while also referring to the blood that was shed in the fight for freedom. The white stripes portray purity, honesty and innocence. The field of blue on which the stars lay represents vigilance, perseverance and justice. The original thirteen white stars represented the thirteen colonies forming a new union by forming a circle. Today there are 50, one for each state that has been added to the union over the years. The flag design has stood the test of time and today remains unchanged. I truly believe that the first founding fathers and Betsy Ross made the perfect choice for the design and the colors. Their creativity proved meaningful. As the flag strolls by any one of us the design definitely brings awe and reverence and holds just as much respect today if not more. Or at least it should.

That first American flag reflected the culture of the birth of a new union. It symbolized freedom and liberty. The culture of those first colonies was the beginning of a new nation created from many nations, just as that first flag was the beginning of a legacy. It represented home for all the immigrants who came from all over the world into one people with one flag. The flag has never really changed, but only been added to which gives Americans a rich and stable history. It is a symbol and idea that men have fought to defend from the very beginning. When raised high it stands for freedom and the rights of humans everywhere to be free from tyranny rule. Americans always rally together behind their flag, whether in the culture of the first thirteen colonies, or the modern culture of today’s fifty states. Through good times and bad we stand united, every race, gender, nationality and religion, under one flag — the red, white, and blue — the American Flag. It is one artifact that has been here in America since the beginning of the country and it will be the last item flying on a flag pole at the end of the world. It says that we are proud of our freedom and how far we have come as the greatest nation on earth. It tells every generation where we came from and lets them know that we will be here forever.



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