June 14, 2010

Flag Day – United States

On this date in 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution establishing the new country's flag as 13 red-and-white stripes and 13 white stars on a blue field. Each star and stripe represented one state.

This resolution didn't design a flag out of thin air, but rather confirmed as official one particular flag that was already in use.

I would say “Cue Betsy Ross,” referring to a popular legend that Betsy Ross designed and sewed the first U.S. flag, but apparently there isn't a lot of evidence that the legend is true. However, as an upholsterer, she definitely did sew many American flags (as did other seamstresses).

There is good evidence that Betsy Ross was the one who suggested a 5-pointed star rather than an earlier 6-pointed version.

Did you know...?

  • The stars of the U.S. flag haven't always been arranged in horizontal stripes. They have been arranged in a circle and in a 5-pointed-star formation.

  • In 1795, there were 15 states in the new country, so there were 15 stars and 15 stripes on the flag. However, in 1818, when 5 more states and therefore 5 more stars were added, the stripes were reduced again to 13. (Thank goodness! What would the U.S. flag look like with 50 stripes?)
The flag pictured left is the one that 
inspired the U.S. national anthem, 
"The Star-Spangled Banner." 
It has 15 stripes.

  • The largest U.S. flag (called “Superflag”) is 505 feet long and 225 feet wide. It weighs 3,000 pounds, and it takes 500 people to unfurl! Each star is 17 feet high. Pictured above, the flag is owned by Thomas "Ski" Demski.

  • Even though a recent article claims that the Guinness Book of World Records lists Superflag as the world's largest flag, someone named Michael Treglazoff writes in: "The world's largest flag is 900 feet long x 300 feet high. It flies in North Korea in the village called Gesungdong or "propaganda" village; the flag is currently hoisted onto the world's tallest flagpole at 557 feet tall."

Learn about flags of the world

  • Here is a website with flags from all over the world.
  • Enchanted Learning has a variety of world flag activities. Click around—there are lots of links to various categories of flags, plus color symbolism, flag shapes, and so forth. I clicked “Animals” and found out that animals as varied as  eagles, bears, lions, dragons, snakes, and bison. Peru's flag features a llama, and Uganda's flag features a Grey Crowned Crane.
  • A very complete website on vexillology (the study of flags) is called “Flags of the World.”

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