What Does the American Flag Mean?
USA Flag History
We all know that the fifty stars represent the fifty states, and the stripes represent the original thirteen colonies. We also know that Betsy Ross made the first flag. But did you know that George Washington commissioned her to make it after a few other men and Washington drew on a piece of parchment what they wanted? Betsy Ross wasn't thrilled to take on this responsibility, and her initial response was, "I don't know, but I can try." Here are more facts that you probably did not know about the stars, the stripes, the colors, the folds, and the meaning behind it all.
First Flag of the United States
Stars on the United States Flag
Throughout history, the number of stars on the flag has changed. As each state joined the United States of America, another star was added. On July 4, 1960, Hawaii was the final star that completed the flag that we know today.
The shape of the star chosen to represent each state was a unique decision. Prior to the end of the 18th century, six, seven, and eight pointed stars were more commonplace than the five pointed star. Some speculate that the five-pointed star was chosen to further separate the United States from Europe. Another theory is that Betsy Ross came up with the five-pointed star because it was easier to do with one snip of the scissors than a six pointed star. No one knows for sure, but the five-pointed star was a unique decision that allows our flag to be that much more special to Americans.
How Many Stars Were on the Flag?
Number of Stars
Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia
Kentucky and Vermont
Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee
Alabama and Maine
Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington
Arizona, and New Mexico
Stripes on the American Flag
The thirteen stripes on each flag are always seven red and six white. Prior to 1916, there was no consistency about whether the flag had six or seven red stripes. No one knows for sure if there was a reason that seven red stripes were chosen, although some may wonder if it had anything to do with keeping the edges of the flag clean, since white shows dirt more easily than red. Not a very patriotic reason, but a very logical answer.
As for the stripes themselves, they stand for the first thirteen colonies. They include:
- Virginia (1607)
- New Jersey (1618)
- Massachusetts (1620)
- New Hampshire (1622)
- Pennsylvania (1623)
- New York (1624)
- Maryland (1634)
- Connecticut (1635)
- Rhode Island (1636)
- Delaware (1638)
- North Carolina (1653)
- South Carolina (1670)
- Georgia (1733)
I Pledge Allegiance to the United States
I pledge allegiance
to the flag
of the United States
and to the republic
for which it stands,
one nation under God,
and justice for all.
Colors of the Flag
The colors were deliberately chosen to represent a theme that our founding fathers felt was important to the building of our nation.
- Red stands for courage, hardiness, and bloodshed. Courage because our country is based on the courage of separating from what we once knew, courage of starting over, courage of fighting for our freedom. Hardiness because our founding fathers believed our country will outlast the land that we came from. Finally, blood shed to honor all those who lost their life for our freedom and our country.
- White stands for purity and vigilance: purity because our country is independent and is not corrupted by any other country. Vigilance because our country needs to be alert and careful in the choices we make.
- Blue stands for justice and perseverance: justice because it is the basis of our country, and perseverance because although our nation is young, we will stand strong against all opposition.
Folding the Flag
Whenever the United States of America's flag is folded, there is a symbol behind each fold and tuck. It is not random, but very purposeful. This is one reason why they will fold an American flag at a veteren's funeral.
They always fold the flag so that way only the blue and white stars can be seen. One reason they do this is so that none of the red shows, because it stands for the blood shed. We want to remember the person's perseverance and vigilance, not the loss of the person.
Even the shape is considered when folding the flag. It is in the shape of a triangle so that it symbolizes the hat worn by Revolutionary soldiers. It is because of these men that we have our freedom and our rights.
What Does Each Fold in the American Flag Mean?
- Fold One - Symbol of life
- Fold Two - Symbol of belief in eternal life
- Fold Three - Honor and remembrance of veterans
- Fold Four - Symbol of our weaker nature
- Fold Five - Tribute to the United States of America
- Fold Six - Symbol of our hearts and devotion
- Fold Seven - Tribute to the Armed Forces
- Fold Eight - For those who went into the "Valley of the Shadow of Death"
- Fold Nine - Tribute to womanhood and its giving and nurturing nature
- Fold Ten - Tribute to our fathers who gave their sons to protect our land
- Fold Eleven - Dedication to Jews and represents the bottom of the Seal of King David and King Solomon
- Fold Twelve - Represents the Christian and glorifies God.
Do You Feel That America Is the Land of the Free?
Questions & Answers
How come there are different flags?
To understand why there are different flags, you need to understand the purpose of flags. In early years, a flag was raised to claim a particular land or ship. It was to notify others that that land/ship belonged to the group or country that flag represents. Flags are also used to show support and promote unity within a group. Since there are many different groups, countries, states, there is a need to symbolize each group through a flag, hence the multitude of flags.
Why did they chose stars to represent the states ?
The honest answer is that no one truly knows for sure, but we do know that the resolution of the Continental Congress in 1777 states "the union [shall] be thirteen stars white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." This statement lies in the midst of resolutions regarding the Navy. The association of sailing and stars may have played a part. Also because the primary reason for a flag is to identify ships, it makes sense that there would be that navigational symbolism.
How can I use the American flag as a topic for an essay?
First you need to decide what kind of essay you are trying to write. Are you trying to write an argumentative one or an explanatory one? What about this article did you find interesting? What caught your eye? What did you disagree with? What did you agree with? What surprised you? There are so many directions you could go when writing an essay about the American flag. It is up to you to decide what message you want to give to your reader. I personally stay away from debates, because I am pacifist by nature, but not by politics. So my writing tends to be expository. It doesn't catch people's attention unless their goal is just education.
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz