Lots of flags

History of stars and stripes both ‘colorful’ and, at times, frantic

Thursday is Flag Day and it’s appropriate to reflect back on the long and colorful history of the United States Flag...all of them.

A lot has changed since June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress passed a resolution calling for the not quite one-year-old nation to adopt a flag with 13 stripes and 13 stars, one for each state.

That was fine until Vermont and Kentucky joined the union. So, on Jan. 13, 1794, Congress adopted a new flag with 15 stripes and 15 stars.

But then came Tennessee. And Ohio. And Louisiana, Indiana and Illinois. By 1818, had the new country continued the tradition of adding one stripe and one star for every state there would have been 20 stripes and the flag would have been the shape and size of one of those barbecue aprons dad wears on the Fourth of July.

So on April 4, 1818, President James Monroe signed into law a bill cutting the number of stripes back to 13, and remaining so, but with a new star to be added each time a new state was admitted to the union.

That has worked quite well. There have now been 22 different configurations of the U. S. flag, the last two in 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii joined the union.

Sometimes it got pretty frantic. There were six different configurations of flags between 1889 and 1893 as both Dakotas, Montana, Washington and Idaho joined the union in rapid fire. And there was a 49-star flag for just eight months, January to August, 1959, as Alaska and Hawaii joined up in the same year.

It wasn’t until 1912, however, that President Taft, in an executive order, established the exact rectangular proportions of the flag and mandated a single point of each star to point upward.

It’s been quite a history. But then it’s quite a flag!— M.B.

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2012-06-14 digital edition

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