What Does the American Flag Mean?

Updated on March 22, 2018
angela_michelle profile image

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past or else be destined to repeat it.

The United States of American Flag
The United States of American Flag | Source

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

One of the first American flags that Betsy Ross sewed.
One of the first American flags that Betsy Ross sewed. | Source

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?

Year
Number of Stars
States Added
1777-1795
13
Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia
1795-1818
15
Kentucky and Vermont
1818-1819
20
Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee
1819-1820
21
Illinois
1820-1822
23
Alabama and Maine
1822-1836
24
Missouri
1836-1837
25
Arkansas
1837-1845
26
Michigan
1845-1846
27
Florida
1846-1847
28
Texas
1847-1848
29
Iowa
1848-1851
30
Wisconsin
1851-1858
31
California
1858-1859
32
Minnesota
1859-1861
33
Oregon
1861-1863
34
Kansas
1863-1865
35
West Virginia
1865-1867
36
Nevada
1867-1877
37
Nebraska
1877-1890
38
Colorado
1890-1891
43
Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington
1891-1896
44
Wyoming
1896-1908
45
Utah
1908-1912
46
Oklahoma
1912-1959
48
Arizona, and New Mexico
1959-1960
49
Alaska
1960-NOW
50
Hawaii

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

of America,

and to the republic

for which it stands,

one nation under God,

indivisible,

with liberty

and justice for all.

Pride in America often is represented by the United States flag.
Pride in America often is represented by the United States flag. | Source

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.

American Flag

The flag stands for freedom and all the things our country was built to become.
The flag stands for freedom and all the things our country was built to become. | Source

Folding the Flag

Each fold of the American flag means something different.
Each fold of the American flag means something different. | Source

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?

See results

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz

Comments

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    • profile image

      Shakira 

      2 months ago

      This was vary helpful.

    • profile image

      Pesce 

      2 months ago

      Correction: The colors of the flag were not “deliberately chosen”. The current flag was developed from the already established “British Red Ensign” which was easy to modify simply by adding white stripes to the existing Red background - it was simple and fast to create to distinguish the colonies from the British.. You can see this development by searching the “British Red Ensign”, then “Grand Union Flag”, then finally “Stars & Stripes”

    • profile image

      Stephan Clark 

      2 months ago

      Great Article ...

      Robert Merrill, you are absolutely throwing your opinion around and trying to make it fact... it is not and no matter how loud you shout an opinion, it will never be a fact unless it's a true statement.

      I'll use a bit of the authors description of colors in my rebuttal.

      So... just thought I'd throw out a blab on my position on what some people don't seem to be able to grasp about this "flag" thing.

      A lot of people think it's disrespectful that some NFL players have been taking a knee during the anthem.

      That argument, being used by many, just doesn't hold water all the way around for several reasons.

      It was never about the flag but since a lot of people refuse to get it and want to make it about that instead of the REAL issue, let's just go ahead and let you win and make the argument about the flag and showing disrespect.

      Personally, I hate flags and think they should all be burned, as throughout history they have been a symbol of division in the world. But this isn't about me or my beliefs and I don't get to make the rules, nor should I. This is about what YOU chose to make it about. The Flag and disrespect.

      So if those who think flags are great don't want to disrespect YOUR flag, then you should at least learn what YOUR Flag stands for from the people who had a countries vision in their foresight and what they wanted the flag to stand for.

      Because the GREATEST Form of respect you can have for a piece of cloth is to understand what it stands for and what it does not stand for and HONOR those things, lest you be a disrespectful ingrate inthe eyes of YOUR flag.

      A few things it doesn't stand for.

      It sure as hell doesn't stand for "forced patriotism".

      It sure as hell doesn't stand for "hey use me to make money"

      It sure as hell doesn't stand for "hey use me to sucker young men and women into dying to make rich men richer"

      What it DOES STAND FOR is ...

      Freedom first and foremost (supposedly)

      We know the stripes are for the 13 original colonies, that decided to break away by PROTESTING and making their own flag.

      We know the stars are for the 50 states. That are only here because of PROTESTING.

      As an artist, I appreciate the colors used on flags and often colors are representative of what is displayed for the eye to see. and since they are right in front of everyone's nose that representation should be known and understood if one is going to stand at attention and sing to it. I see them as the most important aspect of a lot of things. Including the flag.

      The colors of our Flag 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..

      Now lets take the players taking a knee and see how it lines up ..

      Red ...

      1. Courage, ... when men stand up against oppression it takes courage, ESPECIALLY when it's not them that's being oppressed. These men are taking the risk of losing their livelihood to help OTHER AMERICANS in their plight.

      2. Hardiness .... pretty self explanatory ... they had the courage to start this...and they have shown the hardiness to (knee their ground) and not roll over and be pushed around by those who very well understand what this is about but want to put the hammer down and try and make these men look like villains.

      3. Bloodshed .... blood has been shed in the name of freedom.

      what better way to honor those that lost their lives than to take a knee in front of her flag and FIGHT for the freedom of the oppressed that LIVE in this country they DIED for.

      White ...

      1. Purity ... there is very little of that left around. But it does exist in our children before we corrupt them. Should we continue to let things be this way or should we work to make things better ?

      2. Vigilance ... we must never become complacent and think "this is america the best place in the world" and never look around and realize there is still much to be improved upon. Sometimes we need that guy up on the podium raising his fist, so we ask question of ourselves about our country and does it REALLY hold up the standards it is supposed to? Whatever standards those are, should we not pay attention to disparities in those standards to different groups of citizens ?

      Blue ... (this is the one most people should REALLY pay attention too to GRASP the understanding that these players are right in their actions)

      1. Justice ... justice because it is the basis of our country. It's probably the NUMBER one thing that gives FREEDOM any meaning at all. For if there is no justice, there is no freedom.

      and it's Ironic that these players are most certainly being unjustly vilified for pointing out the injustices to OTHERS by people that CLAIM to be patriots.

      2. Perseverance ... perseverance is a good trait. Lots of people can't handle the heat, lots of people I personally know and grew up with sold out their ideals along the way because it was the easy way ... They like to try and fool themselves and appease their consciences by saying things like "We Grew Up" ... No they didn't, they lacked what these players still have ..namely

      Courage, Hardiness and the Perseverance to help make a difference is someone else's life, no matter what it cost them.

      .. and that my friends, is real Patriotism and the absolute highest form of respect and honor one can extend in front of the flag that's very definition is being ignored by others ...

      Show YOUR Flag the respect YOU think it deserves and UNDERSTAND what it stands for and WHY you need to get over your butt hurt and filling my feed with your crying about the players "disrespect" and your drool from cheering on your IGNORANT President that hasn't a clue what YOUR FLAG stands for.

      and that's my last speech of the day ... I'm off to do "liberal" things ...have a great Day ! ..:)

    • profile image

      Roberta Merrill 

      2 months ago

      By the way , I am the author of my questions.. Why do I feel that even you do not really understand why our countrymen placed our flag in Iwo Jima? We ARE THE UNITED STATES!!!

      ARE WE NOT?

    • profile image

      Roberta Merrill 

      2 months ago

      Our children do not know. Our flag is a symbol of our United freedom. We stand because we are saying that we will not only stand for our I individual freedom but we stand together to fight and preserve our freedom

      We do not stand for any other reason.

      To not stand is saying we are giving up that freedom. And if not willing to stand unitedly with us, then they should be shot. They are kneeling to bondage.

    • profile image

      charles fuentes 

      3 months ago

      the articale was very intrestng and amazing good job!!

    • profile image

      Vegeta 

      3 months ago

      that was AMAZING!!!!!

    • profile image

      Tammie 

      3 months ago

      The article was very informative.

    • profile image

      JEFF! 

      3 months ago

      I liked the article.

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      3 months ago from United States

      By the way, I do not share my articles on other people's articles/blogs/websites. If someone shared it on your article/blog/website, it was not me.

    • profile image

      Faizaa Moosa 

      4 months ago

      Very informative

    • Faizaa moosa profile image

      Faizaa moosa 

      7 months ago

      Very informative

    • profile image

      Hello44 

      8 months ago

      Angela I liked how you put the states in order!! Keep on making helpful websites! :)

    • profile image

      Hello44 

      9 months ago

      Thanks Angela, this really helped me!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 months ago from United States

      Good, how are you? Are you my brother?

    • profile image

      jazlyn 

      10 months ago

      amazing

    • profile image

      Jiggy J 

      10 months ago

      your good

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 months ago from United States

      Sorry, I own two businesses, homeschool a teenager, home with a toddler, I don't login all the time to approve comments. By the way, I do stand for our national anthem.

    • profile image

      Toodgie ( 2g) 

      10 months ago

      My comment hasn't been posted; did I offend; sometimes the " Truth" offends...please respond...2g

    • profile image

      Toodgie (2g) 

      10 months ago

      To honor the American flag, shows all that you "Love" America; The nfl just proved their disrespect; Actions speak louder than words !!! p.s. They just made little rocket man happy...

    • profile image

      Bill Lamps 

      10 months ago

      Many of us need to read the meaning of the Star Spangle Banner, and read the meaning what the United States of America Flag. Please work together, and stop bickering.

    • profile image

      Shane 

      11 months ago

      This land was taken over from the natives!!! Can you say terrorist!!!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      12 months ago from United States

      I have never heard this.

    • profile image

      sajawal 

      12 months ago

      The Fourth of July was generally celebrated as America's birthday, yet the possibility of a yearly day particularly commending the Banner is accepted to have first begun in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a teacher, organized the students in the Fredonia, Wisconsin State funded School, Area 6, to watch June 14 (the 108th commemoration of the official selection of The American Flag) as 'Banner Birthday'. In various magazines and daily paper articles and open locations over the next years, Cigrand proceeded to energetically advocate the recognition of June 14 as 'Banner Birthday', or 'Banner Day'.

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      14 months ago from United States

      Thank you, I will correct that!

    • profile image

      Jobby 

      14 months ago

      Hi Angela, good information as well as Scott updates. I wanted to point out one thing I noticed, Tennessee is misspelled on the 1818-1819 20 stars on the states added. Just FYI

    • profile image

      Scott Hall 

      15 months ago

      Several statements offer misrepresented or ill-researched information. The statement about the stars is flat out wrong. The stars are called "mullets" from ancient heraldry. The United States Army Institute of Heraldry is the official heraldic authority for the US:

      In heraldry, the term star may refer to any star-shaped charge with any number of rays, which may appear straight or wavy, and may or may not be pierced. While there has been much confusion between the two due to their similar shape, a star with straight-sided rays is usually called a mullet (or "molet") while one with wavy rays is usually called an estoile.

      While a mullet may have any number of points, it is presumed to have five unless otherwise specified in the blazon. Estoiles, however, are presumed to have six rays and have not been found pierced. [Five-pointed] pierced mullets are called spur revel, while ones that are not pierced are called a star.

      Blasons (shields & flags) and crests go back to early medieval history.

      Not only do shapes have meanings in heraldry, but so do colors. 1777 June 14 – the Continental Congress adopts the following: "_Resolved_, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, silver in a blue field, representing a new constellation."

      The House of Representatives publishes a book about the flag: "The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

      The color of red represents the blood spilled and valor of the people that fought and died to create the new nation, white signifies purity and innocence of the new nation, blue the infinite vastness of the creator, and silver the strength and integrity of the individual states joined together shining and reflecting their oneness in the new light.

      According to the Institute of Hearaldry, “The placing of a fringe on Our Flag is optional with the person of organization, and no Act of Congress or Executive Order either prohibits the practice. Fringe is used on indoor flags only, as fringe on flags on outdoor flags would deteriorate rapidly. The fringe on a Flag is considered and honorable enrichment only'.” It has been said that the gold color represents the richness of the natural resources of this nation.

      The claim that the seamstress Elizabeth “Betsy” Griscom-Ross sewed the first American flag is widely discredited by historians. It is a popular legend promulgated by her descendants, specifically her grandson, William J. Canby, who stated before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that Ross told him on her deathbed that she made the first American flag by hand. There is proof that she did make flags for the Pennsylvania State Navy and there are receipts which show her compensation for those flags.

      U.S. Flag etiquette: http://www.military.com/flag-day/flag-ettiquette-d...

    • profile image

      christian 

      15 months ago

      It was good what you said and It gave me a lot of information

    • profile image

      jeff 

      15 months ago

      this was awsome

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      19 months ago from United States

      Thank you for letting me know. I will look into that and possibly make those adjustments.

    • profile image

      Charlie 

      19 months ago

      Great historical information. However, that is not the original pledge of allegiance from 1892. It is: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands- one nation indivisible-with liberty and justice for all."

    • profile image

      Isabella 

      20 months ago

      This was wonderful!!!

    • profile image

      Charlene 

      20 months ago

      I decided to look up the meaning regarding the American Flag after seeing a post on Facebook about wanting to punish people who burn the American Flag. My Nephew was one of five killed about three weeks ago in Afghanistan, being blown up by a suicide bomber who walked in to the Bagram base there heading for the Pavillion with several hundred soldiers waiting to do a post Veterans day run. Being startled by my Nephew and a few others, the bomber was forced to detonate early...before reaching the Pavillion, which saved numerous maybe even hundreds of soldiers' lives Many people do not know the meaning of the American Flag and what it represents. This is a great article on our Flag. Now I know the meaning of the folds for the Flag and what it meant for my brother to receive a folded one after my Nephew died. GOOD JOB!

    • profile image

      13yrs_serafina 

      21 months ago

      America has never been a free country. Look back at the lives that the slaves had. Anyone who think that they are free have a strange definition of freedom. Even now people of different races are not treated equally and are not able to do things freely.

    • profile image

      Rob 

      22 months ago

      I thought there were 13 folds when folding the American flag.

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      6 years ago from United States

      I'm curious about your flag? Know any facts there?

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 

      6 years ago

      I hardly knew any of this stuff about the American flag--I had heard the story of Betsy Ross, though. She is famous, even in Canada!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you for your kind words.

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Wonderful hub with important information and the chart is awesome. Way to go!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you so much all, especially you teaches! I really appreciate your compliments!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Love your chart history on the stars in regards to states added. This is well researched and very entertaining -- not to mention educational. Your description of the flag colors is also a great add to the content.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      I probably know a bit less about your flag that your other commentators, so this was really interesting. Great job!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      This is a great hub for this time of year! I too did not know about the meanings behind each fold of the flag. How fascinating!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you both of you. I appreciate your comments.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Interesting and educationional hub. I had no idea the folds in the flag had meanings. I hope no one ever changes them.

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 

      6 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Well done hub, Angela...voted up, useful, beautiful, and interesting. I just learned a BUNCH of stuff! Enjoy your day.

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