Our Flag, A Great American Icon!

With an explosion of red, white and blue we welcome our Nation’s 241st birthday this 4th of July. America has been celebrating a long time and one of our greatest symbols, Old Glory, will be flying everywhere. We know you want to get into the spirit but before DIY’ing that American flag as a cute dress this 4th, you just might want to check the U.S. Flag Code…

Photo: Unsplash, Jacob Morrison

As a symbol of our independence and patriotism, the American flag’s stars and stripes are iconic!  Its design is simple, 13 stripes for each of the 13 colonies and 50 stars (not 52, that is the number of playing cards in a deck!) for each of our states.

Our first flag consisted of the familiar red and white stripes but included a Union Jack in the corner before changing to the “Betsy Ross Flag” with a circle of stars replacing the Union Jack.  In 1818 congress passed an act that would have a star added to the flag each time a state was added to the Union. 26 changes later we have our 50 star flag!

Although many believe that Betsy Ross designed and sewed our first flag, historical research has proven otherwise. It is fact that she did sew the flag but the honor of original designer goes to Francis Hopkinson.


Betsy Ross was the 8th child in a family of 17 children and grew up Quaker.  She learned to sew as a child and became an upholsterer and flag maker as an adult.  Photo: Wikimedia


Hopkinson famously sent Congress a bill for his work in designing the American flag and asking for “a quarter cask of public wine” .  The details of the bill included his work on designing the great seal of the United States.  Photo: francishopkinsonsociety.org

As a delegate from New Jersey, Hopkinson was one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. There are a number of proven examples showing that Hopkinson was the original designer of our flag. The most compelling of these were his letters to Congress requesting compensation. Hopkinson sent two letters asking first to be paid with a quarter cask of wine and later with cash. Both requests were denied. (Apparently, designing the American flag wasn’t nearly as valuable as a good cask of vino!)

Today’s current 50 state flag design was created in 1958 by17-year-old Robert Heft who had hand sewn a cut up American flag belonging to his grandparents for a school project. Heft got a B- for the project which left him frustrated. After a discussion with his teacher a promise was made to change the grade if the design was accepted by the United States Congress. So that is just what he did!  A determined Heft enlisted the help of a neighboring congressman and after 21 letters and 18 phone calls (all made by Heft) his design was chosen to represent our nation. Two years later on July 4, 1960, with an invitation from President Eisenhower, Heft watched his 50 star flag raised over Fort McHenry.  He had finally earned his A!

Do you know your american flag etiquette?  In December of 1942, Congress passed the U.S. Flag code. This detailed document outlines how one should behave in the presence of the flag. The code outlines how the flag is to be displayed, when and where to display – including weather conditions! – the lighting used and how and when it should be used for mourning. There is even a doctrine for how a worn out, old flag should be retired.

So, is it cool to wear that American flag as clothing?  The Flag Code is only a guideline and there certainly aren’t any “flag police” enforcing the U.S. Flag Code. However, it does suggest against wearing the flag as clothing.  Instead, just wear some red, white and blue, wave your flag instead of wearing it and have a happy 4th!

How are you celebrating the 4th of July this year?  Do you own an American flag?  Share your stories with us…