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Flag of the United States of America
See adjacent text.
Names The Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, The Star Spangled Banner
Use National flag and ensign
Proportion 10:19
Adopted June 14, 1777 (original 13-star version)
July 4, 1960 (current 50-star version)
Design Thirteen horizontal stripes alternating red and white; in the canton, 50 white stars on a blue field
US Naval Jack.svg
FIAV 000010.svg Union Jack. Currently used as state jack; used as state and naval jack, 1960–2002.
Naval Jack of the United States.svg
FIAV 000001.svg Current naval jack, known as the First Navy Jack.

The national flag of the United States of America (the American flag) consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars. The fifty stars on the flag represent the 50 states and the 13 stripes represent the original thirteen colonies that rebelled against the British monarchy and became the first states in the Union.[1] Nicknames for the flag include the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory,[2] and The Star-Spangled Banner (also the name of the national anthem).



The flag of the United States is one of the nation's most widely recognized symbols. Within the U.S. it is frequently displayed, not only on public buildings, but on private residences. It is also used as a motif on decals for car windows, and clothing ornaments such as badges and lapel pins. Throughout the world it is used in public discourse to refer to the U.S., not only as a nation, state, government, and set of policies, but also as an ideology and set of ideas.

Apart from the numbers of stars and stripes representing the number of current and original states, respectively, and the union with its stars representing a constellation, there is no legally defined symbolism to the colors and shapes on the flag. However, folk theories and traditions abound.




Diagram of the flag's design

The basic design of the current flag is specified by 4 U.S.C. § 1; 4 U.S.C. § 2 outlines the addition of new stars to represent new states. The specification gives the following values:

  • Hoist (width) of the flag: A = 1.0
  • Fly (length) of the flag: B = 1.9[3]
  • Hoist (width) of the Union: C = 0.5385 (A x 7/13, spanning seven stripes)
  • Fly (length) of the Union: D = 0.76 (B × 2/5, two fifths of the flag length)
  • E = F = 0.0538 (C/10, One tenth of the width of the Union)
  • G = H = 0.0633 (D/12, One twelfth of the length of the Union)
  • Diameter of star: K = 0.0616
  • Width of stripe: L = 0.0769 (A/13, One thirteenth of the flag width)

These specifications are contained in an executive order which, strictly speaking, governs only flags made for or by the U.S. federal government.[4] In practice, most U.S. national flags available for sale to the public have a different length-to-width ratio; common sizes are 2 x 3 ft. or 4 x 6 ft. (flag ratio 1.5), 2.5 x 4 ft. or 5 x 8 ft. (1.6), or 3 x 5 ft. or 6 x 10 ft. (1.667). Even flags flown over the U.S. Capitol for sale to the public through Representatives or Senators are provided in these sizes.[5] Flags that are made to the prescribed 1.9 ratio are often referred to as "G-spec" (for "government specification") flags.

A subdued-color flag patch, worn on some U.S. Military uniforms.


The exact shades of red, white, and blue to be used in the flag are specified as follows:[6]

Color Cable color Pantone[7] Web Color[8] RGB Values[9]
     Dark Red 70180 193 C #BB133E (187,19,62)
     White 70001 Safe #FFFFFF (255,255,255)
     Navy Blue 70075 281 C #002664 (0,38,100)

The 49- and 50-star unions

When Alaska and Hawaii were being considered for statehood in the 1950s, more than 1,500 designs were spontaneously submitted to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although some of them were 49-star versions, the vast majority were 50-star proposals. At least three, and probably more[citation needed], of these designs were identical to the present design of the 50-star flag.[10] At the time, credit was given by the executive department to the United States Army Institute of Heraldry for the design.

Of these proposals, one created by 17-year old Robert G. Heft in 1958 as a school project has received the most publicity. His mother was a seamstress, but refused to do any of the work for him. He originally received a B- for the project. After discussing the grade with his teacher, it was agreed (somewhat jokingly) that if the flag was accepted by Congress, the grade would be reconsidered. Heft's flag design was chosen and adopted by presidential proclamation after Alaska and before Hawaii was admitted into the union in 1959. He got an A.[11]


Traditionally, the flag may be decorated with golden fringe surrounding the perimeter of the flag as long as it does not deface the flag proper. Ceremonial displays of the flag, such as those in parades or on indoor posts, often use fringe to enhance the beauty of the flag. The first recorded use of fringe on a flag dates from 1835, and the Army used it officially in 1895. No specific law governs the legality of fringe, but a 1925 opinion of the attorney general addresses the use of fringe (and the number of stars) " at the discretion of the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy..." as quoted from footnote in previous volumes of Title 4 of the United States Code law books and is a source for claims that such a flag is a military ensign not civilian. However, according to the Army Institute of Heraldry, which has official custody of the flag designs and makes any change ordered, there are no implications of symbolism in the use of fringe.[12] Several federal courts have upheld this conclusion.[13][14] Traditionally, the Army and Air Force use a fringed National Color for parade, color guard and indoor display, while the Sea Services (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) use a fringeless National Color for all uses.

Display and use

The NYSE at Christmas time decorated with the American flag.

The flag is customarily flown year-round at most public buildings, and it is not unusual to find private houses flying full-size flags. Some private use is year-round, but becomes widespread on civic holidays like Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Presidents' Day, Flag Day, and on Independence Day. On Memorial Day it is common to place small flags by war memorials and next to the graves of U.S. war veterans. Also on Memorial Day it is common to fly the flag at half staff, until noon, in remembrance of those who lost their lives in war while fighting for the U.S.

Flag etiquette

The United States Flag Code outlines certain guidelines for the use, display, and disposal of the flag. For example, the flag should never be dipped to any person or thing, unless it is the ensign responding to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation. (This tradition may come from the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, where countries were asked to dip their flag to King Edward VII: the American flag bearer did not. Team captain Martin Sheridan is famously quoted as saying "this flag dips to no earthly king", though the true provenance of this quotation is unclear.[15][16])

Flags on display on the National Mall

The flag should never be allowed to touch the ground and, if flown at night, must be illuminated. If the edges become tattered through wear, the flag should be repaired or replaced. When a flag is so tattered that it can no longer serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning. The American Legion and other organizations regularly conduct dignified flag-burning ceremonies, often on Flag Day, June 14. It is a common myth that if a flag touches the ground or becomes soiled, it must be burned as well. While a flag that is currently touching the ground and a soiled flag are unfit for display, neither situation is permanent and thus the flag does not need to be burned if the unfit situation is remedied.[17]

Significantly, the Flag Code prohibits using the flag "for any advertising purpose" and also states that the flag "should not be embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use".[18] Both of these prohibitions are widely flouted, almost always without comment.

Proper vertical display.

Although the Flag Code is U.S. Federal law, it is only binding on government institutions displaying the flag: there is no penalty for a private citizen or group failing to comply with the Flag Code and it is not widely enforced—indeed, punitive enforcement would conflict with the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.[19] Passage of the proposed Flag Desecration Amendment would overrule legal precedent that has been established.

Display on vehicles and uniforms

When the flag is affixed to the side of a vehicle or uniform, it should be oriented so that the union is towards the front. This is done to give the impression that the flag is blowing backwards from its hoist as the vehicle or wearer moves forward.[20] Therefore, U.S. flag decals (or patches) on the right sides of vehicles (or uniforms) may appear to be "reversed", with the union to the observer's right instead of left as more commonly seen.

Places of continuous display

By presidential proclamation, acts of Congress, and custom, American flags are displayed continuously at certain locations.

Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington, Virginia

Particular days for display

A boy holds an American flag during the 2009 National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C.

The flag should especially be displayed at full staff on the following days:

Display at half-staff

The flag is displayed at half-staff (half-mast in naval usage) as a sign of respect or mourning. Nationwide, this action is proclaimed by the president; state-wide or territory-wide, the proclamation is made by the governor. In addition, there is no prohibition against municipal governments, private businesses or citizens flying the flag at half-staff as a local sign of respect and mourning. However, many flag enthusiasts feel this type of practice has somewhat diminished the meaning of the original intent of lowering the flag to honor those who held high positions in federal or state offices. President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first proclamation on March 1, 1954, standardizing the dates and time periods for flying the flag at half-staff from all federal buildings, grounds, and naval vessels; other congressional resolutions and presidential proclamations ensued. However, they are only guidelines to all other entities: typically followed at state and local government facilities, and encouraged of private businesses and citizens.

Astronaut Alan Shepard raises the United States Flag on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 14 mission.

To properly fly the flag at half-staff, you must first hoist it briskly to the top of the pole, then slowly lower it to three-quarters of the height of the pole. Similarly, when the flag is to be lowered from half-staff, it should be first hoisted briskly to the top of the pole, then lowered slowly to the base of the flagpole.

Federal guidelines state the flag should be flown at half-staff at the following dates/times:

  • May 15 - Peace Officers Memorial Day, unless it is the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day, full-staff all day
  • The week in which May 15 occurs - Police Week[33]
  • Last Monday in May - Memorial Day (until noon)
  • July 27 - Korean War Veterans Day (expired 2003 − reinstated 2009)[34][35]
  • September 11 - Patriot Day[36]
  • First Sunday in October - Start of Fire Prevention Week.[37][38]
  • December 7 - National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day [39]
  • For 30 days - Death of a president or former president
  • For 10 days - Death of a vice president, Supreme Court chief justice/retired chief justice, or speaker of the House of Representatives.
  • From death until the day of interment - Supreme Court associate justice, member of the Cabinet, former vice president, president pro-tempore of the Senate, or the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives. Also for federal facilities within a state or territory, for the governor.
  • On the day after the death - Senators, members of Congress, territorial delegates or the resident commissioner of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Further, the flag is always flown at half-staff at four locations in the United States. These locations are Post Cemetery at Mackinac Island in Michigan, Punchbowl in Honolulu, the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and Arlington National Cemetery

Folding for storage

Folding the U.S. flag

Though not part of the official Flag Code, according to military custom flags should be folded into a triangular shape when not in use. To properly fold the flag:

  1. Begin by holding it waist-high with another person so that its surface is parallel to the ground.
  2. Fold the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars, holding the bottom and top edges securely.
  3. Fold the flag again lengthwise with the blue field on the outside.
  4. Make a rectangular fold then a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to meet the open top edge of the flag. Starting the fold from the left side over to the right
  5. Turn the outer end point inward, parallel to the open edge, to form a second triangle.
  6. The triangular folding is continued until the entire length of the flag is folded in this manner (usually thirteen triangular folds, as shown at right). On the final fold, any remnant that does not neatly fold into a triangle (or in the case of exactly even folds, the last triangle) is tucked into the previous fold.
  7. When the flag is completely folded, only a triangular blue field of stars should be visible.
A flag prepared for presentation to the next of kin
Grand Union Flag.svg
FIAV historical.svg Grand Union Flag (Continental Colors)
Flag of the British East India Company (1707).svg
FIAV historical.svg Flag of the British East India Company, 1707–1801

Use in funerals

Traditionally, the flag of the United States plays a role in military funerals,[40] and occasionally in those over other civil servants (such as the President). A burial flag is draped over the deceased's casket as a pall during services. Just prior to the casket being lowered into the ground, the flag is ceremonially folded and presented to the deceased's next of kin as a token of respect.[41]


The flag has been changed 26 times since the new, 13-state union adopted it. The 48-star version went unchanged for 47 years, until the 49-star version became official on July 4, 1959 (the first July 4 following Alaska's admission to the union on January 3, 1959). The 47-years of the 48-star version had been the longest time the flag went unmodified until July 5, 2007, when the 50-star version of the Flag of the United States broke the record.

First flag

At the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, the United States had no official national flag. The Grand Union Flag has historically been referred to as the "First National Flag"; although it has never had any official status, it was used early in the American Revolutionary War[42] by George Washington and formed the basis for the design of the first official U.S. flag. It closely resembles the British East India Company flag of the same era that was used from 1707, and an argument dating to Sir Charles Fawcett in 1937 holds that the Company flag indeed inspired the design,[43] and Buckminster Fuller mentioned it in his book, Critical Path. However, the Company flag could have from 9 to 13 stripes, and was not allowed to be flown outside the Indian Ocean.[44] Both flags could have been easily constructed by adding white stripes to a British Red Ensign, a common flag throughout Britain and its colonies.

Another theory holds that the red-and-white stripe—and later, stars-and-stripes—motif of the flag may have been based on the Washington family coat of arms, first used to identify the family in the twelfth century, when one of George Washington's ancestors took possession of Washington Old Hall, then in County Durham, north-east England, which consisted of a shield "argent, two bars gules, above, three mullets gules" (a white shield with two red bars below three red stars).[45]

The Flag Resolution of 1777

On June 14, 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: "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."[46] Flag Day is now observed on June 14 of each year. A false tradition holds that the new flag was first hoisted in June 1777 by the Continental Army at the Middlebrook encampment.[47]

US flag 13 stars – Betsy Ross.svg
FIAV historical.svg 13-star "Betsy Ross" flag
Bennington Flag.svg
FIAV historical.svg Bennington flag

The 1777 resolution was probably meant to define a naval ensign, rather than a national flag. It appears between other resolutions from the Marine Committee. On May 10, 1779, Secretary of the Board of War Richard Peters expressed concern "it is not yet settled what is the Standard of the United States."[48]

The Flag Resolution did not specify any particular arrangement, number of points, nor orientation for the stars. The pictured flag shows 13 outwardly-oriented five-pointed stars arranged in a circle, the so-called Betsy Ross flag. Although the Betsy Ross legend is controversial, the design is among the oldest of any U.S. flags. Popular designs at the time were varied and most were individually crafted rather than mass-produced. Other examples of 13-star arrangements can be found on the Francis Hopkinson flag, the Cowpens flag, and the Brandywine flag. Given the scant archaeological and written evidence, it is unknown which design was the most popular at that time.[citation needed]

Despite the 1777 resolution, a number of flags only loosely based on the prescribed design were used in the early years of American independence. One example may have been the Guilford Court House Flag, traditionally believed to have been carried by the American troops at the Battle of Guilford Court House in 1781.[49]

The origin of the stars and stripes design is inadequately documented. The apocryphal story credits Betsy Ross for sewing the first flag from a pencil sketch handed to her by George Washington. No evidence for this exists; indeed, nearly a century had passed before Ross' grandson, William Canby, first publicly suggested it.[50] Another woman, Rebecca Young, has also been credited as having made the first flag by later generations of her family. Rebecca Young's daughter was Mary Pickersgill, who made the Star Spangled Banner Flag.[citation needed]

It is likely that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, designed the 1777 flag while he was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board's Middle Department, sometime between his appointment to that position in November 1776 and the time that the flag resolution was adopted in June 1777. This contradicts the Betsy Ross legend, which suggests that she sewed the first Stars and Stripes flag by request of the government in the Spring of 1776.[46][51] Hopkinson was the only person to have made such a claim during his own lifetime, when he sent a bill to Congress for his work. He asked for a "Quarter Cask of the Public Wine" as payment initially. The payment was not made, however, because it was determined he had already received a salary as a member of Congress, and he was not the only person to have contributed to the design.[citation needed] It should be noted that no one else contested his claim at the time.

Later flag acts

FIAV historical.svg 15-star, 15-stripe Star Spangled Banner Flag
US flag 48 stars.svg
FIAV historical.svg 48-star flag, is the second longest in use (1912–1959).

In 1795, the number of stars and stripes was increased from 13 to 15 (to reflect the entry of Vermont and Kentucky as states of the union). For a time the flag was not changed when subsequent states were admitted, probably because it was thought that this would cause too much clutter. It was the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner," now the national anthem.

On April 4, 1818, a plan was passed by Congress at the suggestion of U.S. Naval Captain Samuel C. Reid[52] in which the flag was changed to have 20 stars, with a new star to be added when each new state was admitted, but the number of stripes would be reduced to 13 so as to honor the original colonies. The act specified that new flag designs should become official on the first July 4 (Independence Day) following admission of one or more new states. The most recent change, from 49 stars to 50, occurred in 1960 when the present design was chosen, after Hawaii gained statehood in August 1959. Before that, the admission of Alaska in January 1959 prompted the debut of a short-lived 49-star flag.[53]

As of July 4, 2007, the 50-star flag has become the longest rendition in use.

The "Flower Flag" arrives in Asia

Compared to the flags of many other nations, the flag of the United States is notably complex, leading to expressions such as Huāqíguó ("flower flag nation"), a Chinese name for America used in the 19th and early 20th centuries.[54]

The U.S. flag was brought to the city of Canton (Guǎngzhōu) in China in 1785 by the merchant ship Empress of China, which carried a cargo of ginseng.[55] There it gained the designation "Flower Flag [花旗]."[56] According to author and U.S. Naval officer George H. Preble:

When the thirteen stripes and stars first appeared at Canton much curiosity was excited among the people. News was circulated that a strange ship had arrived from the farther end of the world, bearing a flag as beautiful as a flower. Everybody went to see the Fah-kay-cheun [花旗船], or flower-flag ship. This name at once established itself in the language, and America is now called Fah-kay-gawk [花旗國], the flower-flag country, and an American, Fah-kay-gawk-yun [花旗國人], flowerflag country man, — a more complimentary designation than that of red-headed barbarian, the name first bestowed on the Dutch.[55]

The above quote romanizes the Chinese words from spoken Cantonese. In Mandarin, the official Chinese language, "Flower Flag Nation" is rendered as Huāqíguó ().[54] These names were common usage in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Other Asian nations have equivalent terms for America, for example Hoa Kỳ ("Flower Flag") in Vietnam. In modern times, however, Chinese refer to the US as Měiguó (), Měi being short for Měilìjiān (Chinese name for "America") and "guó" meaning "country," a name unrelated to the flag.

The U.S. flag took its first trip around the world in 1787-90 on board the Columbia.[56] William Driver, who coined phrase Old Glory, took the U.S. flag around the world in 1831-32.[56] The flag attracted the notice of Japanese when an oversized version was carried to Yokohama by the steamer Great Republic as part of a round-the-world journey in 1871.[57]

Historical progression of designs

In the following table depicting the 28 various designs of the United States flag, the star patterns for the flags are merely the usual patterns, often associated with the United States Navy. Canton designs, prior to the proclamation of the 48-star flag, had no official arrangement of the stars. Furthermore, the exact colors of the flag were not standardized until 1934.[58]

No. of
No. of
Design States Represented
by New Stars
Dates in Use Duration
0 13 Grand Union Flag.svg N/A 01775-12-03 December 3, 1775[59] – June 14, 1777 1 1/2 years
(18 months)
13 13 US flag 13 stars.svg Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts,
Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire,
Virginia, New York, North Carolina,
Rhode Island
01777-06-14 June 14, 1777 – May 1, 1795 18 years
(215 months)
15 15 US flag 15 stars.svg Vermont, Kentucky 01795-05-01 May 1, 1795 – July 3, 1818 23 years
(278 months)
20 13 US flag 20 stars.svg Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi,
Ohio, Tennessee
01818-07-04 July 4, 1818 – July 3, 1819 1 year
(12 months)
21 13 US flag 21 stars.svg Illinois 01819-07-04 July 4, 1819 – July 3, 1820 1 year
(12 months)
23 13 US flag 23 stars.svg Alabama, Maine 01820-07-04 July 4, 1820 – July 3, 1822 2 years
(24 months)
24 13 US flag 24 stars.svg Missouri 01822-07-04 July 4, 1822 – July 3, 1836
1831 term "Old Glory" coined)
14 years
(168 months)
25 13 US flag 25 stars.svg Arkansas 01836-07-04 July 4, 1836 – July 3, 1837 1 year
(12 months)
26 13 US flag 26 stars.svg Michigan 01837-07-04 July 4, 1837 – July 3, 1845 8 years
(96 months)
27 13 US flag 27 stars.svg Florida 01845-07-04 July 4, 1845 – July 3, 1846 1 year
(12 months)
28 13 US flag 28 stars.svg Texas 01846-07-04 July 4, 1846 – July 3, 1847 1 year
(12 months)
29 13 US flag 29 stars.svg Iowa 01847-07-04 July 4, 1847 – July 3, 1848 1 year
(12 months)
30 13 US flag 30 stars.svg Wisconsin 01848-07-04 July 4, 1848 – July 3, 1851 3 years
(36 months)
31 13 US flag 31 stars.svg California 01851-07-04 July 4, 1851 – July 3, 1858 7 years
(84 months)
32 13 US flag 32 stars.svg Minnesota 01858-07-04 July 4, 1858 – July 3, 1859 1 year
(12 months)
33 13 US flag 33 stars.svg Oregon 01859-07-04 July 4, 1859 – July 3, 1861 2 years
(24 months)
34 13 US flag 34 stars.svg Kansas 01861-07-04 July 4, 1861 – July 3, 1863 2 years
(24 months)
35 13 US flag 35 stars.svg West Virginia 01863-07-04 July 4, 1863 – July 3, 1865 2 years
(24 months)
36 13 US flag 36 stars.svg Nevada 01865-07-04 July 4, 1865 – July 3, 1867 2 years
(24 months)
37 13 US flag 37 stars.svg Nebraska 01867-07-04 July 4, 1867 – July 3, 1877 10 years
(120 months)
38 13 US flag 38 stars.svg Colorado 01877-07-04 July 4, 1877 – July 3, 1890 13 years
(156 months)
43 13 US flag 43 stars.svg Idaho, Montana, North Dakota,
South Dakota, Washington
01890-07-04 July 4, 1890 – July 3, 1891 1 year
(12 months)
44 13 US flag 44 stars.svg Wyoming 01891-07-04 July 4, 1891 – July 3, 1896 5 years
(60 months)
45 13 US flag 45 stars.svg Utah 01896-07-04 July 4, 1896 – July 3, 1908 12 years
(144 months)
46 13 US flag 46 stars.svg Oklahoma 01908-07-04 July 4, 1908 – July 3, 1912 4 years
(48 months)
48 13 US flag 48 stars.svg Arizona, New Mexico 01912-07-04 July 4, 1912 – July 3, 1959 47 years
(564 months)
49 13 US flag 49 stars.svg Alaska 01959-07-04 July 4, 1959 – July 3, 1960 1 year
(12 months)
50 13 Flag of the United States.svg Hawaii 01960-07-04 July 4, 1960 – present 49 years
(596 months)

Future of the flag

The United States Army Institute of Heraldry has plans for flags with up to 56 stars, using a similar staggered star arrangement should additional states accede. There are political movements supporting statehood in Puerto Rico (by the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico) and the District of Columbia, among other areas.

United States 51-star flag (proposed by U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry)[citation needed]
United States 51-star flag (proposed by U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry)[citation needed]
United States 51-star flag (proposed by New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico)[citation needed]
United States 51-star flag (proposed by New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico)[citation needed]

Similar national flags

Flag of Bikini Atoll
Flag of Bikini Atoll
Flag of Liberia
Flag of Liberia
Flag of Malaysia
Flag of Malaysia
Flag of Netherlands New Guinea/West Papua
Flag of Netherlands New Guinea/West Papua
  • The flag of Bikini Atoll is symbolic of the islanders' belief that a great debt is still owed to the people of Bikini because in 1954 the United States government detonated a thermonuclear bomb on the island as part of the Castle Bravo test.
  • The flag of Liberia bears a close resemblance, showing the ex-American-slave origin of the country. The Liberian flag has 11 similar red and white stripes, which stand for the 11 signers of the declaration there, as well as a blue square with only a single large white star for the union.
  • The flag of Malaysia also has a striking resemblance, with red and white stripes (14 total), and a blue canton, but displaying instead of stars a star and crescent emblem. This might be due, however, to the great influence of the British East India Company, rather than the later United States flag. Also quite similar is the flag of the Federation of Malaya, a predecessor to current day Malaysia.
  • The Morning Star flag of the former Netherlands New Guinea is intentionally similar to the flag of the United States.
Flag of Togo
Flag of Togo
First Republican Flag of Brazil
First Republican Flag of Brazil
Flag of the Republic of Texas
Flag of the Republic of Texas
1st National Flag of the Confederate States of America
1st National Flag of the Confederate States of America

See also

Article sections

Associated persons



  • Allentown Art Museum. The American Flag in the Art of Our Country. Allentown Art Museum, 1976.
  • Herbert Ridgeway Collins. Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth 1775 to the Present. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979.
  • Grace Rogers Cooper. Thirteen-star Flags: Keys to Identification. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1973.
  • David D. Crouthers. Flags of American History. Hammond, 1978.
  • Louise Lawrence Devine. The Story of Our Flag. Rand McNally, 1960.
  • William Rea Furlong, Byron McCandless, and Harold D. Langley. So Proudly We Hail: The History of the United States Flag. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981.
  • Scot M. Guenter, The American Flag, 1777-1924: Cultural Shifts from Creation to Codification. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. 1990. online
  • Marc Leepson, Flag: An American Biography. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2005.
  • David Roger Manwaring. Render Unto Caesar: The Flag-Salute Controversy. University of Chicago Press, 1962.
  • Boleslaw Mastai and Marie-Louise D'Otrange Mastai. The Stars and the Stripes: The American Flag as Art and as History from the Birth of the Republic to the Present. Knopf, 1973.
  • Milo Milton Quaife. The Flag of the United States. 1942.
  • Milo Milton Quaife, Melvin J. Weig, and Roy Applebaum. The History of the United States Flag, from the Revolution to the Present, Including a Guide to Its Use and Display. Harper, 1961.
  • Albert M. Rosenblatt. "Flag Desecration Statutes: History and Analysis," Washington University Law Quarterly 1972: 193-237.
  • Leonard A. Stevens. Salute! The Case of The Bible vs. The Flag. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1973.


  1. ^ States are represented collectively; there is no meaning to particular stars nor stripes.
  2. ^ Coined by Captain William Driver, a nineteenth century shipmaster.
  3. ^ Note that the flag ratio (B/A in the diagram) is not absolutely fixed. Although the diagram in Executive Order 10834 gives a ratio of 1.9, earlier in the order is a list of flag sizes authorized for executive agencies. This list permits eleven specific flag sizes (specified by height and width) for such agencies: 20.00 × 38.00; 10.00 × 19.00; 8.95 × 17.00; 7.00 × 11.00; 5.00 × 9.50; 4.33 × 5.50; 3.50 × 6.65; 3.00 × 4.00; 3.00 × 5.70; 2.37 × 4.50; and 1.32 × 2.50. Eight of these sizes conform to the 1.9 ratio, within a small rounding error (less than 0.01). However, three of the authorized sizes vary significantly: 1.57 (for 7.00 × 11.00), 1.27 (for 4.33 × 5.50) and 1.33 (for 3.00 × 4.00).
  4. ^ Ex. Ord. No. 10834, August 21, 1959, 24 F.R. 6865 (governing flags "manufactured or purchased for the use of executive agencies", Section 22).
  5. ^ Architect of the Capitol: "Flag Request Form", retrieved on 2009-06-25
  6. ^ According to Flags of the World, the colors are specified by the General Services Administration "Federal Specification, Flag, National, United States of America and Flag, Union Jack," DDD-F-416E, dated November 27, 1981. It gives the colors by reference to "Standard Color Cards of America" maintained by The Color Association of the United States, Inc. It was updated by revision DDD-F-416F on March 31, 2005, though the color specifications remained the same. Prior to those, document TT-C-591( 1) from 1934 apparently defined the colors for the flag in the CIE 1931 color space.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ These designs are in the Eisenhower Presidential Archives in Abilene, Kansas. Only a small fraction of them have ever been published.
  11. ^ "Robert G. Heft: Designer of America's Current National Flag". A website dedicated to the Flag of the United States of America. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  12. ^ "Fringe on the American Flag". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  13. ^ See McCann v. Greenway, 952 F. Supp. 647 (W.D. Mo. 1997), which discusses various court opinions denying any significance related to trim used on a flag.
  14. ^ Rebuttal of "martial law flag" claims by tax protestors
  15. ^ LA84 Foundation
  16. ^ London Olympics 1908 & 1948
  17. ^ Flag Disposal retrieved June 14, 2008
  18. ^ 4 U.S.Code Sec. 8(i).
  19. ^ Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).
  20. ^
  21. ^ Presidential Proclamation No. 2795, July 2, 1948
  22. ^ Public Law 83-319, approved March 26, 1954
  23. ^ Presidential Proclamation No. 3418, June 12, 1961
  24. ^ Public Law 89-335, approved November 8, 1965
  25. ^ Presidential Proclamation No. 4000, September 4, 1970
  26. ^ Presidential Proclamation No. 4064, July 6, 1971, effective July 4, 1971
  27. ^ Presidential Proclamation No. 4131, May 5, 1972
  28. ^ Pub.L. 94−53, 89 Stat. 259, S.J.Res. 98, approved July 4, 1975
  29. ^ With the consent of Congress, Old Glory kept perpetual shine, PE Press Archive.
  30. ^ With the consent of Congress, Slover Mountain, The Sun, 14 May 2008
  31. ^ By Act of Congress. California Portland Cement Co
  32. ^ It is possible that Apollo 11's flag was knocked down by the exhaust force of liftoff for return to lunar orbit.[citation needed]
  33. ^ 36 U.S.C. Sec. 137
  34. ^ 36 U.S.C. Sec. 127
  35. ^ Pub.L. 111-41, 123 Stat. 1962, July 27, 2009.
  36. ^ Patriot Day, 2005
  37. ^ Public Law 107-51
  38. ^ [1]
  39. ^ National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, 2007
  40. ^ "Sequence of Events for an Army Honors Funeral At Arlington National Cemetery". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  41. ^ "Flag Presentation Protocol". Virginia Army National Guard. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  42. ^
  43. ^ The Striped Flag of the East India Company, and its Connexion with the American "Stars and Stripes" at Flags of the World
  44. ^ East India Company (United Kingdom) at Flags of the World
  45. ^ A 2002 BBC documentary featuring the town of Selby and Selby Abbey showed the coat of arms with the commentator referring to it as the inspiration for the U.S. Flag, a commonly held belief in Britain.
  46. ^ a b Federal Citizen Information Center: The History of the Stars and Stripes. Accessed June 7, 2008.
  47. ^ Guenter (1990)
  48. ^ Mastai, 60
  49. ^ Other evidence suggests it dates only to the nineteenth century. The original flag is at the North Carolina Historical Museum.
  50. ^ Crews, Ed. "The Truth About Betsy Ross". Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  51. ^ Embassy of the United States of America [2] Accessed April 11, 2008.
  52. ^ United States Government (1861) (PDF). Our Flag. Washington DC: United States Government Printing Office. S. Doc 105-013. 
  53. ^ "United States Flag History". United States Embassy. Retrieved 2009-02-03. 
  54. ^ a b Chinese: . See Chinese English Dictionary
    Citibank, which founded a branch in China in 1902, is known as "Flower Flag Bank" (花旗銀行).
    Olsen, Kay Melchisedech, Chinese Immigrants: 1850-1900 (2001), p. 7.
    "Philadelphia's Chinatown: An Overview", The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
    Leonard, Dr. George, "The Beginnings of Chinese Literature in America: the Angel Island Poems".
  55. ^ a b Preble, George Henry, History of the flag of the United States of America, (1880).
  56. ^ a b c Tappan, Eva March, The Little Book of the Flag (1917), pp. 91-92.)
  57. ^ "American Flag Raised Over Buddhist Temple in Japan on July 4, 1872"
  58. ^ (For alternate versions of the flag of the United States, see the Stars of the U.S. Flag page at the Flags of the World website.)
  59. ^ Leepson, Marc. (2005). Flag: An American Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press.

External links

Simple English

File:Flag of the United
The flag of the United States of America

The flag of the United States of America is a national flag.

The flag of the United States has 7 red stripes and 6 white stripes. These 13 stripes stand for the 13 original colonies. The flag also has a blue canton, a rectangle in the top left corner. The canton has one white star for every state.

When a new state joins the United States a new flag is made with an extra star. The new flag is first flown on the "4th of July", Independence Day.

The last states to join so far the United States were Alaska and Hawaii in 1959. Alaska joined on 3 January 1959, so the new flag with 49 stars was used from 4 July 1959. Hawaii joined on 21 August 1959 so the flag with 50 stars that is used today was not flown until 4 July 1960.

The colors in the flag are red, white and blue. The colors have no special meaning in the flag, but in the coat of arms white stands for purity and innocence, red for bravery and strength and blue for watchfulness, perseverance and justice.

The flag is also often called the Stars and Stripes, the Star-Spangled Banner, or Old Glory. The national anthem and national march of the United States both reference the flag.


  • 13 horizontal (meaning from side to side, not top to bottom) red and white stripes, representing the original 13 states.
  • 50 white stars on a blue rectangle in the top-left, representing the current 50 U.S. states.


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