American Flag Before 1959

American Flag Before 1959

American Flag Before 1959

American Flag Before 1959: A Historical Exploration

Since its inception, the American flag has undergone numerous changes, reflecting the nation’s evolving history and aspirations. Prior to 1959, the flag had a distinct design and symbolism that shaped its place in American culture and society.

Betsy Ross and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’:

The legend of Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag in 1776 has become deeply ingrained in American history. While the authenticity of this story is disputed, it serves to symbolize the flag’s origins in the American Revolutionary War. The ‘Star-Spangled Banner,’ written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812, became the nation’s official anthem and further cemented the flag’s iconic status.

The Thirteen Colonies Flag:

The flag flown by the Continental Army featured thirteen stripes, alternating red and white, representing the thirteen original colonies. The canton contained a field of blue with thirteen white stars, each representing a colony. This design, known as the "Betsy Ross Flag," remained in use until 1795.

The Fifteen-Star Flag:

After Vermont and Kentucky became states in 1791 and 1792, respectively, the flag was modified to include two additional stars, bringing the total to fifteen. This design was short-lived, however, as Tennessee joined the Union in 1796, necessitating the addition of another star.

The Twenty-Star Flag:

With the admission of Ohio in 1803, the flag grew to include twenty stars. This design was particularly significant as it marked the beginning of the westward expansion of the United States. The twenty-star flag remained in use for over three decades, witnessing major events such as the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War.

The Thirty-One-Star Flag:

As the United States continued to expand, the number of stars on the flag grew. By 1851, with the addition of California as the thirty-first state, the flag featured a crowded and intricate design. This led to concerns about its visibility and legibility, particularly when flown at sea.

Stars and Stripes Forever:

In 1857, President Buchanan formed a commission to design a new flag. The commission recommended reducing the number of stars to thirteen, representing the original colonies, while retaining the red, white, and blue stripes. Congress approved this design in 1859, and it became known as the "Stars and Stripes Forever."

The Fiftieth Star:

The addition of Hawaii as the fiftieth state in 1959 marked the final major change to the American flag. The forty-nine-star flag had been in use for over a decade, but the admission of Alaska and Hawaii necessitated the addition of two more stars. The fifty-star American flag was officially adopted on July 4, 1960.

Symbolism and Meaning:

Throughout its history, the American flag has carried deep symbolic meanings:

  • 13 Stripes: Represent the thirteen original colonies and the ideals of liberty and independence.
  • 50 Stars: Represent the fifty states and the unity of the nation.
  • Red: Symbolizes valor and hardiness.
  • White: Represents purity and innocence.
  • Blue: Represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

Respect and Tradition:

The American flag holds a special place in American society and is accorded great respect. The United States Flag Code establishes guidelines for the proper handling and display of the flag. Citizens are encouraged to fly the flag at their homes, businesses, and on public occasions.


1. Why did the number of stars on the flag change over time?
Answer: The stars on the flag represent the number of states in the Union. As new states were admitted, the number of stars increased.

2. When did the American flag become the official national flag?
Answer: The American flag was officially adopted by Congress on June 14, 1777.

3. What does the blue field in the canton represent?
Answer: The blue field in the canton symbolizes vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

4. Is it illegal to burn the American flag?
Answer: No, it is not illegal to burn the American flag. However, it is considered highly disrespectful and may be prosecuted under local laws.

5. When should the American flag be flown at half-staff?
Answer: The American flag should be flown at half-staff as a sign of mourning after the death of a high-ranking government official, military veteran, or law enforcement officer.


  • Congressional Research Service. (2014). The History of the United States Flag.
  • Smithsonian Institution. (2019). The Star-Spangled Banner.
  • National Archives. (2020). American Flag History.

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