Chesterfield NH Historical Society
Chesterfield NH Historical Society

A Bit of History of Our Flag

 

On June 14, 1777, 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." 

 

The exact design is frequently attributed to Congressman Francis Hopkinson of Philadelphia.  However, when he petitioned Congress for payment of his idea, he was turned down on the bases that others had contributed to the design. 

 

 

Today the first official US flag is referred to as the Betsy Ross Flag.  However, the claim that she sewed the first flag has never been substantiated.

 

Since the Betsy Ross Flag, the official American flag has changed 26 times.  With the admission of Vermont and Kentucky, the second flag was approved in 1795. It not only added a star but a strip for each of the new states.  It is referred to as the Star Spangle Banner because it was the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814.

 

 

In 1818, with admission of 5 new states, the next change was made.  Realizing that the addition of a new star and new stripe for each new State was impractical, Congress passed the Flag Act of 1818. It returned the Flag design to 13 stripes and designated that only stars would be added for each additional state.

 

Between 1819 and 1877 the flag changed 17 times with the longest continuous time for one flag being 10 years.  During both the administrations of Presidents Monroe and Polk, it changed 5 times.  In 1890, it jumped from 38 stars to 44, and then changed 4 more times by 1912.  After that, the flag stayed at 48 stars for the next 47 years.

 

 

Alaska added the 49th star in 1959.

This flag was current from

July 4, 1959 – July 3, 1960

 

 

Hawaii completed the present Flag on

July 4,1960.

 

We can thank Bernard J.Cigrand, a school teacher from Waubeka, WI, for being behind the holiday.  In 1885, Cigrand started promoting June 14 as “Flag Birthday or Flag Day”.  Eventually becoming a dentist, he continued to promote the celebration around the country. After 30 years of his advocacy, President Wilson declared June 14th as Flag Day in 1916. However, even though localities and some states picked up on honoring the day, it wasn’t until 1949 that President Truman signed an Act of Congress making it a National holiday. 

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