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Skim is for Milk Not Genealogy

Do you read documents in their entirety or do you skim them over? Do you read the “important parts‚” skipping over what appears to be meaningless? Sometimes the biggest genealogical clues are buried in the boring legal tedium of a court document. Which can be easy to miss if you are only looking for the […]

American Generalogy -US Flag History

American Genealogy – US Flag History

No one knows with absolute certainty who designed the first stars and stripes or who made it. Congressman Francis Hopkinson seems most likely to have designed it and few historians believe that Betsy Ross a Philadelphia seamstress made the first one.  Congressman Hopkinson was one of the signers of  Thomas Jeffersons Declaration of Independence.  He was the Congressman from New Jersey.  On September 24 1789 Congressman Hopkinson was nominated by President George Washington to the newly created position of judge of the United States District Court for the District of Pennsylvania.  He was confirmed by the United States Senate and received his commission on September 26 1789.

Until the Executive Order of June 24 191 neither the order of the stars nor the proportions of the flag was prescribed. Consequently flags dating before this period sometimes show unusual arrangements of the stars and odd proportions these features being left to the discretion of the flag maker. In general however straight rows of stars and proportions similar to those later adopted officially were used. The principal acts affecting the flag of the United States are the following:

On June 14 1777 in order to establish an official flag for the new nation the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: Resolved That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars white in a blue field representing a new Constellation.

  • Act of January 1 1794– provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.
  • Act of April 4 1818– provided for 1 stripes and one star for each state to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state signed by President Monroe.
  • Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24 1912– established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each a single point of each star to be upward.
  • Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3 1959– provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each staggered horizontally and vertically.
  • Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21 1959– provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizon tally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.
Betsy Ross's Flag - George Washington, George Ross and Robert Morris

Betsy Rosss Flag – George Washington George Ross and Robert Morris

 

Since there was no official flag during the first year of the United States there were a great number of homespun flag designs. This flag is without question the most well known of those. There are many reasons why this flag is confused with the first official U.S. flag.  In June 1776 brave Betsy was a widow struggling to run her own upholstery business. Upholsterers in colonial America not only worked on furniture but did all manner of sewing work which for some included making flags. According to Betsy General Washington showed her a rough design of the flag that included a six-pointed star. Betsy a standout with the scissors demonstrated how to cut a five-pointed star in a single snip. Impressed the committee entrusted Betsy with making our first flag.

 

 Flags ranged from 1 stars to the flag of today with 50 stars. 

50-Star Flag: Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21 1959– provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizon tally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically. This is the current flag of the United States. Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state on August 21st 1959. The 27th flag of the United States became the official flag on July 4th 1960. Nine presidents have served under this flag; Dwight D. Eisenhower (195-1961) John F. Kennedy (1961-196) Lyndon B. Johnson (196-1969) Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974) Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977) Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) Ronald W. Reagan (1981-1989) George Bush (1989-199) William J. Clinton (199-2001) George W. Bush (2001-2009) and Barrack Obama (2009-Present).

 

Facts About the US Flag

Airrington Genealogy - 23rd Michigan Infantry Battle Flag

Airrington Genealogy – 23rd Michigan Infantry Battle Flag

Until the Executive Order of June 24 191 neither the order of the stars nor the proportions of the flag was prescribed. Consequently flags dating before this period sometimes show unusual arrangements of the stars and odd proportions these features being left to the discretion of the flag maker. In general however straight rows of stars and proportions similar to those later adopted officially were used. The principal acts affecting the flag of the United States are the following:

  • Flag Resolution of June 14 1777– stated: Resolved: that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars white in a blue field representing a new Constellation.
  • Act of January 1 1794– provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.
  • Act of April 4 1818– provided for 1 stripes and one star for each state to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state.
  • Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24 1912– established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each a single point of each star to be upward.
  • Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3 1959– provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each staggered horizontally and vertically.
  • Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21 1959– provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizontally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.

 

 

What do the colors and the symbols mean?

From the book Our Flag published in 1989 by the House of Representatives…

On July 4 1776 the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a committee to devise a seal for the United States of America. This mission designed to reflect the Founding Fathers beliefs values and sovereignty of the new Nation did not become a reality until June 20 178. In heraldic devices such as seals each element has a specific meaning. Even colors have specific meanings. The colors red white and blue did not have meanings for The Stars and Stripes when it was adopted in 1777. However the colors in the Great Seal did have specific meanings. Charles Thompson Secretary of the Continental Congress reporting to Congress on the Seal stated:

The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence Red hardiness & valour and Blue the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance perseverance & justice.

The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.

The gold trim is generally used on ceremonial indoor flags that are used for special services and is believed to have been first used in a military setting. It has no specific significance that I have ever run across and its (gold trim) use is in compliance with applicable flag codes and laws.

 

Number of Stars in the U.S. Flag and additional states represented 1777 to Present

Date of Flag

Additional states with date of entry into Union

1 stars – 1777 to 1795
  • Delaware (December 7 1787)
  • Pennsylvania (December 1 1787)
  • New Jersey (December 18 1787)
  • Georgia (January 2 1788)
  • Connecticut (January 9 1788)
  • Massachusetts (February 6 1788)
  • Maryland (April 28 1788)
  • South Carolina (May 2 1788)
  • New Hampshire (June 21 1788)
  • Virginia (June 25 1788)
  • New York (July 26 1788)
  • North Carolina (November 21 1789)
  • Rhode Island (May 29 1790)
15 stars – 1795 to 1818
  • Vermont (March 4 1791)
  • Kentucky (June 1 179)
20 stars – 1818 to July 3 1819
  • Tennessee (June 1 1796)
  • Ohio (March 1 180)
  • Louisiana (April 30 181)
  • Indiana (December 11 1816)
  • Mississippi (December 10 1817)
21 stars – July 4 1819 to July 3 1820
  • Illinois (December 3 1818)
2 stars – July 4 1820 to July 3 1822
  • Alabama (December 14 1819)
  • Maine (March 15 1820)
24 stars – July 4 182 to July 3 1836
  • Missouri (August 10 1821)
25 stars – July 4 1836 to July 3 1837
  • Arkansas (June 15 1836)
26 stars – July 4 1837 to July 3 1845
  • Michigan (Jan 26 1837)
27 stars – July 4 1845 to July 3 1846
  • Florida (March 3 1845)
28 stars – July 4 1846 to July 3 1847
  • Texas (December 29 1845)
29 stars – July 4 1847 to July 3 1848
  • Iowa (December 28 1846)
30 stars – July 4 1848 to July 3 1851
  • Wisconsin (May 29 1848)
31 stars – July 4 1851 to July 3 1858
  • California (September 9 1850)
3 stars – July 4 1858 to July 3 1859
  • Minnesota (May 11 1858)
3 stars – July 4 1859 to July 3 1861
  • Oregon (February 14 1859)
34 stars – July 4 1861 to July 3 1863
  • Kansas (January 29 1861)
35 stars – July 4 186 to July 3 1865
  • West Virginia (June 20 186)
36 stars – July 4 1865 to July 3 1867
  • Nevada (October 31 1864)
37 stars – July 4 1867 to July 3 1877
  • Nebraska (March 1 1867)
38 stars – July 4 1877 to July 3 1890
  • Colorado (August 1 1876)
4 stars – July 4 1890 to July 3 1891
  • North Dakota (November 2 1889)
  • South Dakota (November 2 1889)
  • Montana (November 8 1889)
  • Washington (November 11 1889)
  • Idaho (July 3 1890)
44 stars – July 4 1891 to July 3 1896
  • Wyoming (July 10 1890)
45 stars – July 4 1896 to July 3 1908
  • Utah (January 4 1896)
46 stars – July 4 1908 to July 3 1912
  • Oklahoma (November 16 1907)
48 stars – July 4 191 to July 3 1959
  • New Mexico (January 6 191)
  • Arizona (February 14 191)
49 stars – July 4 1959 to July 3 1960
  • Alaska (January 3 1959)
50 stars – July 4 1960 to present
  • Hawaii (August 21 1959)
 Prepared by the Armed Forces History Collections
 in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services
 Smithsonian Institution

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