Flag Day – A Design History Snippet

Below is a really interesting post I ran across about the design of the U.S. flag, and it’s a history I’ve never heard before. You usually get the Betsy Ross story and the cute little cartoon of her sewing in a rocking chair, but I think this is MUCH more interesting. Enjoy! You can read the original post here: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/06/14/45592



It’s Flag Day, a day established in 1916 to commemorate the Second Continental Congress’s adoption of the Stars and Stripes on June 14, 1777. The original specification for the flag was simple: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” That was it. Consequently, there were as many early American flag designs as there were designers.

An eighteen star, eighteen stripe flag, commemorating Louisiana’s entry into the union.

In 1795, the number of stars and stripes rose to fifteen in honor of Vermont and Kentucky’s entry into the union. As more states entered, flag makers added stars and stripes accordingly, although some flag makers decided having too many stripes made their flags look a little too busy. They took the initiative of going back to thirteen stripes for the original thirteen states. In 1818 when there were twenty states in the union, Congress decided to curb the potential stripe explosion and adopted the thirteen stripe flag with twenty stars, while specifying that new stars would be added as needed each July 4. But the arrangement of stars remained unregulated, and flag makers continued to demonstrate a great deal of creativity throughout the nineteenth century. When the forty-eight star flag came into being in 1912 with statehood for Arizona and New Mexico, Congress finally got around to declaring a uniform design for the stars and stripes.

Fifty star flag measurement specification

Today, the flag’s design is tightly specified (PDF: 1.16MB/34 pages) with careful measurements and colors defined according to the the CAUS Standard Color Reference of America. But very few commercially-made flags adhere to that standard: the measurements and aspect ratios are almost always wrong and the colors are typically off. Those that do are called Government Specification or G-Spec flags. The rest of us make do with whatever the flag makes decides it will be. In some ways, things never really change much after all.




Until Next Time,