The journey of the United States flag began in 1776 when General George Washington took command of the continental army in Cambridge, Massachusetts and flew the “Grand Union” flag. This flag has the 13 stripes to represent the 13 colonies alternating in red and white. In the upper left corner is the blue field which contains the crosses of St. George of England and St. George of Scotland.


In May of 1776, Betsy Ross is reported to have sewn the first American flag containing the stars and stripes after a visit from a secret committee of the Continental Congress. The group of three men was George Washington – leader of the Continental Army, Robert Morris – owner of vast amounts of land, often considered the wealthiest man in the colonies, and George Ross – a respected Philadelphian and uncle of Betsy’s late husband. They brought with them sketched design plans for the flag. Betsy is said to have altered the stars from the suggested 6 point to the well-known 5 point star that is on our flag today. Soon after the flag was adopted by the new government, Congressman Francis Hopkinson claimed to have designed it.


While no one positively knows who designed the first stars and stripes flag, Betsy Ross was recognized in April 2009 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with a historical marker at her home stating, “Credited with making the first Stars and Stripes flag, Ross was a successful upholsterer. She produced flags for the government for over 50 years. As a skilled artisan, Ross represents the many women who supported their families during the Revolution and early Republic."


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 act established an official flag for our great nation, but failed to give instruction for the number of points on the stars, color of or arrangement of the stars in the blue field. Wide variations of the star field were common. During the civil war, gold stars were more common than white and were often seen in a circle rather than rows.


Several acts were passed by Congress to change the shape, design and arrangement of the flag and allowing for additional stars and stripes to be added to reflect the admission of each new state. Among the most important, The Act of April 4, 1818 provided 13 stripes representing the original colonies and one star for each state to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following their admission signed by President Monroe. The last star to be added to the flag was on July 4, 1960 following the admission of Hawaii to the Union on August 21, 1959.


Today the flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with 6 white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies. The stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The red in the flag symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence and the blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.