US Flag History Timeline

History Timeline
Stars and Stripes or Old Glory

US Flag History Timeline

Adopted on June 14, 1777

States and their dates of admission are shown. On June 14, Americans celebrate the adoption of the first national flag. Also known as the "Stars and Stripes" or "Old Glory," the first American flag was approved by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.

In 1818, after 5 more states joined the Union, Congress passed legislation fixing the number of stripes at 13 and requiring that the number of stars equal the number of states. Additional stars have been added 27 times between 1777 and 1960. Also, starting in 1819, the updated flag becomes legal on the Fourth of July following the date of admission.

US Flag History Timeline

Flag: An Appeal to Heaven1775: American ships in New England waters flew a "Liberty Tree" flag in 1775. It shows a green pine tree on a white background, with the words, "An Appeal to Heaven." The Tree Flag (or Appeal to Heaven Flag) was one of the flags used during the American Revolution. The flag, featuring a pine tree flag with the motto "An Appeal to God," or, more usually, "An Appeal to Heaven", was used originally by a squadron of six cruisers commissioned under George Washington's authority as commander in chief of the Continental Army in October 1775. It was also used by Massachusetts' state navy vessels in addition to privateers sailing from Massachusetts

Flag: Don't Tread on Me1775: The Continental Navy used this flag, with the warning, "Don't Tread on Me," upon its inception. In 1778, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sicily, thanking him for allowing entry of American ships into Sicilian ports. The letter describes the American flag according to the 1777 Flag Resolution, but also describes a flag of "South Carolina, a rattlesnake, in the middle of the thirteen stripes."

The rattlesnake had long been a symbol of resistance to the British in Colonial America. The phrase "Don't tread on me" may have been coined during the American Revolutionary War, a variant perhaps of the snake severed in segments labeled with the names of the colonies and the legend "Join, or Die" which had appeared first in Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754, as a political cartoon reflecting on the Albany Congress.

The rattlesnake (specifically, the Timber Rattlesnake) is especially significant and symbolic to the American Revolution. The rattle has thirteen layers, signifying the original Thirteen Colonies. Additionally, the snake does not strike until provoked, a quality echoed by the phrase "Don't tread on me."

Flag: Sons of Liberty1775: Sons of Liberty flag. In 1767, the Sons of Liberty adopted a flag called the rebellious stripes flag with nine vertical stripes, five red and four white. A flag having 13 horizontal red and black stripes, used by American merchant ships during the war, was also associated with the Sons of Liberty. While red and white were common colors of the flags, other color combinations, such as green and white or yellow and white, were used.

Flag: New England1775: New England flag.George Washington's military secretary, Col. Joseph Reed, proposed that all American ships fly the Massachusetts Navy flag. This "Americanized" version of the flag links a regional symbol, a New England pine, with the now familiar national colors.

Flag: Forster1775: Forster flag. The original is in the collection of the Flag Heritage Foundation; it was supposedly a British Regimental color captured on April 19, 1775 - the first day of the American Revolution. Later the canton was cut out and the white areas were cut into the strips, six on the obverse and seven on the reverse (13 in all)

Flag: Grand Union1776: January 2 - The first unofficial national flag, called the Grand Union or Continental colors, was raised at the behest of Gen. George Washington near his headquarters outside Boston, Mass. The Grand Union flag is displayed on Prospect Hill with 13 alternate red and white stripes and the British Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner (the canton).

Flag: US - Betsy Ross reports that she sewed the first American flag1776: May - George Washington and two other representatives from the Continental Congress reportly called upon a Philadelphia seamstress, Betsy Ross, to ask her to make a new American flag. This version of events cannot be confirmed by historians, however. Although nobody knows for sure who designed the flag, it may have been Continental Congress member Francis Hopkinson.

Flag: US - Another 13-star, in the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern1977: Another 13-star flag, in the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern. 3-2-3-2-3 Pattern, or Francis Hopkinson Pattern. Although there is some intrigue and controversy surrounding the history of Francis Hopkinson's submission of designs to the Continental Congress, which included design of the first Great Seal and a representation of the American Flag, the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern of stars is also known to collectors as the Francis Hopkinson Pattern. The 3-2-3-2-3 pattern is one of the most common variations of 13 Star flags. In fact, when it comes to antique stars and stripes, it is much more common than the Betsy Ross configuration, which in reality is quite scarce.

Flag: Cowpens1977: Cowpens Flag. According to some sources, this flag was first used in 1777. It was used by the Third Maryland Regiment. There was no official pattern for how the stars were to be arranged. The flag was carried at the Battle of Cowpens, which took place on January 17, 1781, in South Carolina. The actual flag from that battle hangs in the Maryland State House.

Flag: Brandywine1977: Brandywine Flag. The Brandywine flag was a banner carried by Captain Robert Wilson's company of the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment. The company flag received the name after it was used in the Battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777.

 Flag: Continental Congress adopts the following: 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 constellation1777: June 14 - The first official flag, also known as the Stars and Stripes or Old Glory, was adopted by the Continental Congress: "Resolved, That the Flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be , white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." The resolution did not specify how the stars should be arranged, and so the layout varied. (stars represent Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island)

1787: Captain Robert Gray carries the flag around the world on his sailing vessel (around the tip of South America, to China, and beyond). He discovered the Columbia river and named it after his boat The Columbia. His discovery was the basis of America's claim to the Oregon Territory.

1794: Congress authorized the addition of two more stars and two more stripes to mark the admission of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union in 1791 and 1792, respectively. This 15-star, 15-stripe flag, which came into use after May 1795, was the "star-spangled banner" that inspired lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key. (Vermont, Kentucky)

1805: April 27 - It was the first flag to be flown over a fortress of the Old World when American Marine and Naval forces raised it above the pirate stronghold in Tripoli

1813: September - It was the ensign of American forces in the Battle of Lake Erie

1814: September 14 - As daylight broke, Francis Scott Key saw the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry, after it had been bombarded all night by the British. Inspired, he wrote a poem entitled "The Defense of Fort M'Henry," which was later set to music and renamed the "Star-Spangled Banner." Congress made it the official national anthem in 1931.

1815: January - Flown by General Jackson in New Orleans

1818: Flag with 20 stars and 13 stripes (it remains at 13 hereafter) (Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi) Act of April 4, 1818 - After five more states joined the Union,provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state.

1819: Flag with 21 stars (Illinois)

1820: Flag with 23 stars (Alabama, Maine) first flag on Pikes Peak

1822: Flag with 24 stars (Missouri)

1836: Flag with 25 stars (Arkansas)

1837: Flag with 26 stars (Michigan)

1941: December 7 - One of the most memorable is the flag that flew over the Capitol in Washington on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. This same flag was raised again on December 8 when war was declared on Japan, and three days later at the time of the declaration of war against Germany and Italy.

1845: Flag with 27 stars (Florida)

1846: Flag with 28 stars (Texas)

1847: Flag with 29 stars (Iowa)

1848: Flag with 30 stars (Wisconsin)

1851: Flag with 31 stars (California)

1858: Flag with 32 stars (Minnesota)

1859: Flag with 33 stars (Oregon)

1861: Flag with 34 stars; (Kansas) first Confederate Flag (Stars and Bars) adopted in Montgomery, Alabama

1863: Flag with 35 stars (West Virginia)

1865: Flag with 36 stars (Nevada)

1867: Flag with 37 stars (Nebraska)

1869: First flag on a postage stamp

1877: Flag with 38 stars (Colorado)

1890: Flag with 43 stars (North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho)

1891: Flag with 44 stars (Wyoming)

1892: "Pledge of Allegiance" first published in a magazine called "The Youth's Companion." Authorship was claimed for James B. Upham and Francis Bellamy. In 1939 the United States Flag Association ruled that Bellamy was the author of the original pledge. The words, "under God" were added on June 14, 1954. In pledging allegiance to the flag, stand with the right hand over the heart or at attention. Men remove their headdress. Persons in uniform give the military salute. All pledge together: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

1896: Flag with 45 stars (Utah)

1908: Flag with 46 stars (Oklahoma)

1909: Robert Peary places the flag his wife sewed atop the North Pole. He left pieces of another flag along the way.

1912: Flag with 48 stars (New Mexico, Arizona) Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 - established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.

1916: May 30 - President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day a day of national celebration.

1931: Congress officially recognizes `The Star-Spangled Banner' as the national anthem of the United States . Its stirring words were written by Francis Scott Key.

1945: The flag that flew over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is flown over the White House on August 14, when the Japanese accepted surrender terms.

1949: August 3 - President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress that requested that the president issue an annual proclamation calling for the observance of Flag Day and for the display of the flag on all federal government buildings.

1959: Flag with 49 stars (Alaska) Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically. Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizon tally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.

US Flag History Timeline1960: Flag with 50 stars (Hawaii)

1963: Flag placed on top of Mount Everest by Barry Bishop.

1969: July 20 - The American flag is placed on the moon by Neil Armstrong.

1995: December 12 - The Flag Desecration Constitutional Amendment is narrowly defeated in the Senate. The Amendment to the Constitution would make burning the flag a punishable crime.

2002: June 26 - A federal appeals court declared that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because of the words "under God" inserted by Congress in 1954. This ruling was reconfirmed in February 2003.

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