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WB01624_1.gif (281 bytes) What Does this Flag  

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They are ALL American Flags!

 

As citizens of the United States of America we do not pledge our allegiance to the "American Flag"...for there is no single flag that represents the whole of America.  The "Star Spangled Banner" is the flag of the (50) UNITED STATES of America.  Our flag is only as much an American flag as are the flags of Canada, Chile, Mexico, and countless other nations that share the geographical boundaries of the continents called North and South America.  The Star Spangled Banner is unique in that it represents one nation, a republic consisting of 50 individual states that united together to form "one Nation under God".  All too often we think of "Old Glory" as the American Flag, and most people understand when we use this term, what flag we are referring to.  But, in point of fact, the true title for the banner that represents the greatest nation of free citizens in the history of mankind is:

The Flag of the United States of America

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This is the the Flag of the United States of America as it looks today.  Though the 13 red and white stripes date back to our earliest flag, the blue field (called the "UNION") has changed over the years since our Nation was formed.  The present design with a field of 50 stars has been our official flag since 1960.

"This flag means more than association and reward.  It is the symbol of our national unity, our national endeavor, our national aspiration.  It tells you of the struggle for independence, of union preserved of liberty and union one and inseparable, of the sacrifices of brave men and women to whom the ideals and honor of this nation have been dearer than life.

"It means America first, it means an undivided allegiance.  It means that you cannot be saved by the valor and devotion of your ancestors, that to each generation comes its patriotic duty, and that upon your willingness to sacrifice and endure as those before you have sacrificed and endured rests the national hope.

"It speaks of equal rights; of the inspiration of free institutions exemplified and vindicated, of liberty under law intelligently conceived and impartially administered."

Charles Evans Hughes

11th Chief Justice of the United States

 Many flags have flown over the geographical area that is the United States of America since explorers and settlers began making their way here in the 16th Century.  During that period the flags of Spain, France, Holland, Sweden, and England provided the rallying point for the earliest Americans.  The Flag of Great Britain, called The Union Flag, flew over the 13 American Colonies that were to become the first 13 United States, from 1707 to 1775.

 

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The Union Flag

 

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 As the American Colonies became more and more independent of Great Britain, several new flags developed.   One of the most famous was the flag with a snake and the words "Don't Tread on Me".  If you want to study more about some of these other flags, you can learn about them in our archives.  This exhibit is dedicated to the "Stars and Stripes", the development of our official United States Flag. Actually our first official flag had the stripes, but no stars.  Often called the GRAND UNION FLAG, it looked like the flag at the left.

 

THE GRAND UNION FLAG

This flag, often alternately called:

THE CONGRESS COLORS or THE FIRST NAVY ENSIGN or THE CAMBRIDGE FLAG

was authorized by the Second Continental Congress in 1775.   In the latter part of that year the delegates to the Congress realized the need for a unique symbol of the unity of the 13 American colonies.  A committee was appointed late that year to consider such a symbol of unity in a unique standard, or flag.  The committee consisted of Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Benjamin Harrison (Virginia) and Thomas Lynch (South Carolina).  The three men did their homework, consulting with revolutionary leaders like George Washington but not ignoring the many Colonial leaders who were opposed to separation from Great Britain.  The resulting Grand Union Flag may have been one of the first examples of compromise in the development of a new United States.  Designed by Francis Hopkinson who later was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Colonies' new flag incorporated both trains of prevailing political thought:

  1. Thirteen alternating red and white stripes comprised the body of the new flag to symbolize the uniqueness and unity of the 13 American colonies.  The development of a whole new flag further symbolized a degree of their attitude towards independence.

  2. The field of blue in the upper corner of the flag included the British Union Jack, consisting of the cross of St. George of England and the cross of St. Andrew of Scotland.  By basically including a miniature British flag in the design of the new Colonial Flag, the committee was appealing to the wishes of many colonial leaders to repair and maintain their relationship with Great Britain.

Members of the Second Continental Congress considered this new symbol of the 13 American Colonies to be the CONGRESS COLORS.  On January 1, 1776 General George Washington's troops raised the their new flag on the liberty pole at Prospect Hill near the American General's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  For this reason it became known by many as the CAMBRIDGE FLAG.  General Washington preferred to call it the GRAND UNION FLAG, a title that quickly caught on among his soldiers and then others throughout the colonies. Actually this first United States Flag was first seen flying from the masts of the Colonial fleet on the Delaware River late in 1775 and before it was raised at Prospect Hill.  On December 3, 1775 a young Navy lieutenant named John Paul Jones raised the new Congress Colors aboard Captain Esek Hopkins flagship Alfred.  Thus to many, it became the FIRST NAVY ENSIGN. Ironically, this flag  was also the flag of the British East India Company.   It was the official flag of the 13 American Colonies on July 4, 1776 when they declared independence from England.  It was this same flag that represented the free and independent people of the Colonies on September 9, 1776 when Congress gave their new nation a name, the "United States".  The famous "Washington Crossing the Delaware" painting created by Emanuel Leutze in 1851 aside, it was probably this flag that crossed the river with General George Washington and his men.   For almost the entire first year of the American Revolution, the Grand Union Flag was the ensign of the struggling new "United States".

 

Click on the NEXT arrow to go to the next page is this series on the history of our Flag.  If you ever get lost along the way, you can click on the compass to go to our hyper-linked Site Map for the Hall of Heroes.


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13 Star Flag

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[History of the Flag]  [13 Star Flag] [15 Star Flag] [Pre-Civil War Flags]
[Civil War Flags][20th Century Flags][Our 50 Star Flag] [Flag Day]
[Arthur MacArthur's Flag] [William Carney's Flag] [FDR's Flag of Liberation]


FLAG DAY           STATE FLAGS

How to Display the Flag The National Anthem The Pledge of Allegiance
The American Creed The Seal of our Nation Our National Symbol

 

 

Sources:

OUR FLAG, Joint Committee on Printing, United States Congress. 1989
Chronicle of America 1997 Dorling Kindersley
"Flag of the United States". Funk & Wagnals New Encyclopedia. 1986
The Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc.

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