"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Not Just For Kids


June 14th, 2002 marked the 225th birthday of the U.S. flag, one of the oldest national flags in the world. It was on June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress passed a resolution "that the United States flag be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation." The new flag was called Stars and Stripes. (The affectionate name "Old Glory" was coined in 1831 by a young sea captain named William Driver from Salem, Massachusetts.)

The color scheme and design of the U.S. flag are symbolic of America itself. George Washington explained it this way: "We take the stars and blue union from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty." It can also be said that the white stripes represent the purity and serenity of the nation, while the red stripes represent the blood spilled by Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

The resolution of 1777 did not specify how the stars should be arranged. Most early flags had the stars in a circle, but some had them in horizontal lines. Two new states had been formed by 1795, bringing the number of stars and stripes up to 15. Then it was realized that the addition of more stripes would ruin the flag's appearance. Congress passed a law in 1818 returning the flag to its original 13 stripes and stating that a star would be added for each new state.

In 1870, William J. Canby claimed that his grandmother, a seamstress from Philadelphia named Betsy Ross, created the first official U.S. flag. While there are no records proving this, she was probably commissioned to sew the flag, and she also may have been responsible for changing the stars from being six-pointed to five-pointed, which were easier to make.

Most historians now agree that the flag was originally designed by Francis Hopkinson, a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and recognized designer. A record was found of Hopkinson submitting a bill of $2,700 to Congress for "currency designs, design for the Great Seal of the U.S., a treasury seal, a design for the Flag."

The first time the Stars and Stripes flew in a Flag Day celebration was at Hartford, Connecticut in 1861, the first summer of the Civil War. During the late 1800's, schools held Flag Day programs to assist the Americanization of immigrant children. The observance caught on in the communities, and numerous patriotic groups supported a national Flag Day.

People made the flag in different shapes until 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson declared that it should always be 1 9/10 times as long as it is high and that the blue part on which the stars appear should be seven stripes high. It was also in 1916 that the President proclaimed a nationwide observance of Flag Day. Congress made it a permanent holiday in 1949.

The creator of the modern 50-star flag, Robert Heft, was a high school junior in Ohio when Alaska and Hawaii were being considered for statehood. As a history project, he got out a sewing machine and made a flag with 50 stars. A year later, in 1959 the states were admitted and a search was on for a new flag design. Heft's congressman helped him submit his prototype. It was chosen over 109,000 designs, and his was the first flag with 50 stars to fly over Washington, D.C.

On June 20, 1985, Congress passed and President Reagan signed a law recognizing the "Annual National Pause for the Pledge of Allegiance" as part of National Flag Day activities. All Americans are urged to participate on June 14 at 7:00 p.m. (EDT) in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. This simple ceremony is a gesture of patriotism at home and a sign of unity abroad.

Flag Rules

The flag is a special symbol of our nation and it should be treated with respect, thus showing respect for America itself. The Federal Flag Code contains many rules for handling and displaying our flag, including the following: (1) When you are saluting the flag or saying the pledge of allegiance, stand up straight with your right hand over your heart. (2) If you are watching a parade and a flag is carried past you, salute it the moment it passes. (3) The flag should always be displayed and stored carefully so that it won't become torn or dirty. (4) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, structures or objects. (5) When a flag has become old and worn, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning it. (6) When a flag is hung on a flagpole, it should only be displayed from sunrise to sunset, unless a light is shining on it. (7) The flag should be displayed on all national holidays.

Flag Project

Make an American flag based on the design specifications mentioned in this article. Or create a new 51-star flag just in case the U.S. ever gains another state. How would you rearrange the number of stars in each row to make room for another star?

Did you Know…?
If you like to study flags, then you are a Vexillologist!

The Star-Spangled Banner, by Francis Scott Key

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'T is the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

You're a Grand Old Flag, by George M. Cohan

You're a grand old flag,
you're a high flying flag,
and forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of the land I love,
the home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue,
where there's never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
keep your eye on the grand old flag.

Flag Day Quiz (Try to answer these questions without looking at a flag!)

1. How many red stripes does the flag have?

2. How many white stripes does the flag have?

3. What color stripes are at the top and bottom of the flag?

4. How many horizontal rows of stars are there?

5. What do the red and white stripes represent?

6. The reason the flag is folded into a triangular shape is to symbolize the shape of the cocked hats worn by soldiers of the American Revolution. True or False?

7. The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 for the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. True or False?

8. How many words are in the Pledge of Allegiance?

9. The phrase "one nation indivisible" in the Pledge of Allegiance refers to what American war?

10. What does the word "Republic" in the Pledge of Allegiance mean?

Answers: 1.) Seven; 2.) Six; 3.) Red; 4.) Nine; 5.) Thirteen original colonies; 6.) True; 7.) True; 8.) 31; 9.) The Civil War; 10.) A Republic is a nation in which the citizens elect representatives to make laws and operate the government for them. (America's Founding Fathers were opposed to a pure democracy by direct majority vote.)


www.usflag.org (A site dedicated to the flag of the United States.)

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/index.html (Betsy Ross Homepage: flag history, facts, rules & regulations, questions & answers, notable quotes, colors, symbols, how to make a 5-pointed star in one snip, and much more.)

http://www.nationalflagday.com (The National Flag Foundation: educational handbooks and resources, Star-Spangled Banner lesson plan, story and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance, flag photo gallery.)

http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson005.shtml (Flag Day lesson plans, from Education World.)

http://www.examiner.com/list/free-american-flag-craft-patterns-and-patriotic-craft-ideas (American flag craft patterns and patriotic craft ideas.)

http://www.usa-flag-site.org (American flag information and links.)

http://www.pbs.org/capitolfourth/flag.html (The history of the American flag and how it should be displayed.)

http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/patriotic/index.htm (Sing-along midi tunes and lyrics for "Star-Spangled Banner" and other patriotic songs; plus an American flag to print out.)


These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
All rights reserved.

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