American Flags Through History - Historical American Flags and State Flags

Learn about American Flags Through History

The American Flag is one of the most recognizable flags in the world. With its trademark white and red stripes and 50 bold stars, it’s hard to imagine it looking any other way. However, the American flag wasn’t always the stars and stripes we know today. In fact, the American flag has gone through many changes – 26 to be exact – before it became the iconic symbol that it is today. Each of these changes continues to be an official flag of the United States of America.

How the American Flag Has Evolved Throughout History

The American flag represents so much to so many people. Though it has constantly evolved throughout history, its many iterations have led to the creation of one of the most recognizable flags in the world.

Let's take a closer look at some of the changes and adjustments the US flag has endured over the years.

US Flag Design Changes: Adding New Stars to the American Flag

So exactly how and why did the US flag change so often? The stars on the flag were one of the main design elements that changed over the years.

Each time a new territory was awarded statehood, the American Flag needed updating. Our original stars on the 13 Star Flag represented each of the original thirteen colonies. Through time other areas became states and the flag was redesigned to accommodate their presence.

The Betsy Ross Flag & The 13 Stars & Stripes Flag

The most popular historic American flag may not even be a true historic American flag at all. The Betsy Ross flag , thought by many to be the first American Flag, is such only in spirit. The ringed, 13-star design made famous by Betsy was never adopted by America as an official flag. The first official thirteen-star flag had a stacked, horizontal star layout similar (although less crowded) to that of the flag today. It also established the alternating red/white stripe pattern we know today, as well as the blue canton (or constellation) in the upper left hand corner.

The initial 13 Stars & Stripes Flag design seems to have been based on the work of Francis Hopkinson, a member of congress and signatory to the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Hopkinson designed the flag for use on naval ships in 1777 and his overall design was widely adopted during the first decades of America’s independence. No true or statutory standard evolved until the formalization of the flag in 1818 when it was decided that a new star would be added for each new state, but the number of stripes should remain at 13.

More Recent Changes to the American Flag

As we have matured as a country our flag changes have slowed. While we have adopted a total of 26 different flags in our almost 250 year history, only six changes occurred within the last 100 years or so.

These more recent updates began with the in 1896 that acknowledged Utah’s admission to the country, and last updated to the 50 Star American Flag in 1960 to acknowledge Hawaii. It took almost 65 years to move from a 45 Star American Flag to our current 50 stars! That’s still a new flag about every ten years on average -- the 45 Star American Flag in 1896 to the 50 star American Flag in 1960.

Meanwhile, we have averaged exactly zero new flags for the last 50+ years! What’s next for in US flag history? Many people believe that Puerto Rico will be adopted for statehood in the near future, so if that happens, time to get a new flag!

Products Related to Historical American Flags

Showcase your historic American flag with pride. We have all the accessories you need, including multiple styles of brackets and flagpoles to choose from, to keep Old Glory flying proudly, no matter which version of the US flag you choose to fly.

Looking to make a big statement with your historic American flag? Consider getting a quote from one of our experts for an in-ground 20’ flagpole. They look fantastic in front of the house or workplace.

Curious about which historic versions of the US flag are most popular? Some of the most popular historical variants of the US Flag are the 13 star flag in both the Betsy Ross design and the officially recognized version, or the “15 Stars & Stripes Flag. ” Any of the Civil War era flags are a popular option, as are more recently admitted state designations starting with the 45 Star American Flag.

Or, if you want to acknowledge your state’s adoption to the country, it's a great idea to fly the US flag that showcases when your addition occurred. For instance in Utah, you would fly the 45 Star American Flag, adopted in 1896, to acknowledge statehood.

Interested in customizing a flag? Customers who are interested in American Flags through history are often also interested in our custom flags. Gettysburg Flag Works can custom make your US Flag in historically accurate materials such as cotton - just ask us.

Give us a call at 1-888-697-3524 or send us a message and we'll get back to you shortly!

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