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What Does The American Flag Mean To Different People?

When you think of very identifiable symbols, the bald eagle, the White House, and absolutely the American Flag come to mind. It is one of the most identifiable symbols out there. The flag is often called “Old Glory,” and it is an enduring symbol of America.


The modern flag design consists of fifty stars representing each and every one of our fifty states. The thirteen stripes pay tribute to the original thirteen colonies. These thirteen colonies made up a young America when it declared its independence on July 4th, 1776, from England. The flag design has been adjusted throughout history, adding a new star for every new state in the country.


You may feel that the American flag means the same thing to all American citizens, but it has various meanings amongst different groups of people.

 

How Do Americans Feel?

According to an NPR report that took place in October of 2020, United States citizens have varying opinions of the American flag.


More than 1800 people responded to NPR's survey regarding the national flag. Answers were as diverse as the United States itself. Some people feel very strongly about the symbolism of the American flag, while others just view it as a unifying banner for our country.


The report mentioned a man in Vermont who proudly displays two American flags in front of his home. This Vermont native felt that Americans should be proud to be citizens of this country. He sees the flag as a sacred symbol. For him, the flag is something that should be saluted and respected.


Others interviewed felt less strongly about the subject. Their take on the flag was more simple and straightforward. One woman interviewed felt that the American flag is a symbol that represents the shared values of the United States.


Despite your views on the flag's symbolism, the American flag will always be there to represent our country. Don't worry, it's here to stay and has been since 1776.

 

Myths And Facts About The American Flag

With someone as powerful and prominent as the American flag, there are sure to be wild tall tales about such an epic symbol. A lot of what we believe to be fact is actually a little way away from the truth.


We have gathered ten myths that many people believe about the flag to debunk them.

 

Myth Number One: Betsy Ross Created The First American Flag

The story of how the American flag was born has become well-known amongst Americans. The story came from William Candby (Ross' grandson). He recounted the story to the Pennsylvania Historical Society in 1870 with little evidence to support its validity nearly a century after the flag was created. The tale goes that George Washington walked into a shop and asked Betsy Ross to sew a flag. Canby claimed that Ross told him this story right before her death in 1836.

 

Historians have analyzed this story and found discrepancies within it that just don't make sense. For example, Washington was out in the field commanding the army, and he did not spend much time in Philadelphia, where Betsy Ross's upholstery shop was located. Also, flags used to only be made for ground troops and not for naval forces. George Washington had little to do with ground troops. These fact discrepancies reveal that the actual creator of the first American flag probably was not Betsy Ross and has been lost to history.

 

Myth Number Two: The Flag Has Always Had Stars And Stripes

Despite popular belief, the earliest version of the American flag did not contain the stars and stripes we are familiar with today. For example, a flag used in 1775 did indeed have stripes, but it displayed the British Union Jack crosses in the top left Union. At the time, the most common use of the national flag was for naval ships to be able to recognize one another. Congress did not make the flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes official until1777.

 

Myth Number Three: Americans Have Always Flown The Flag

Americans did not always fly American flags to show their support for America. Before the Civil War, flags were flown at official capacities on ships, forts, and government buildings. If a family flew an American flag outside their home in this era, it would have been considered strange.


People did not start flying their own flags until the outbreak of war in 1861. There was an uproar of patriotism at the beginning of the Civil War. Soon after, people started flying American flags everywhere to show their support for the Union cause.

 

Myth Number Four: Red, White, And Blue Have Official Meanings

This one might surprise you. The American flag colors did not have a specific meaning when the flag was first adopted in 1777. The traditional meanings we associate with the colors today were not commonly known until five years later, in 1782. This is credited to Charles Thompson, the secretary of the Continental Congress. He gave meaning to the colors; red is for hardiness and valor; white means purity and innocence; and blue is for vigilance and justice.

 

Myth Number Five: It's Against The Law To Burn The American Flag

In the court case Texas v. Johnson of 1989, defendant Gregory Lee Johnson had burned the American flag at the Republican National Convention in 1984 as a form of protest. The Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.


Prior to this case, it was illegal to burn the American flag, but since then, efforts to make this act illegal have failed repeatedly in court.

 

Myth Number Six: It's Illegal To Wear Clothing Bearing The American Flag

The Flag Code was established in 1923 by the American Legion. It provides a set of guidelines for flag etiquette. In 1942, it was brought in as a law by Congress. The code is not law. If the flag code is broken, you will not be arrested.


If you wear clothes made from a real American flag, you would definitely be breaking The Flag Code, but you would not go to jail or be tried in court or anything of the sort.

 

Myth Number Seven: A Flag That Touches The Ground Must Be Destroyed

The American flag should not touch the ground, water, floor, or anything below it. There is some misinterpretation here. Some folks believe that if an American flag touches the ground, it must be destroyed. According to the Flag Code, that is not the case.


Despite what you may think, flags should only be destroyed only if they are no longer in good enough condition for display. If touching the ground didn't compromise the condition of the flag, it should not be destroyed. If you own a flag that becomes too worn to showcase, burning it is the best way to destroy it.

 

Myth Number Eight: The Flag Should Never Be Flown At Night

You actually can display an American flag at night as long as it is lit throughout the night. This notion is mentioned in the Flag Code. It is customary only to fly the flag from sunrise to sunset.

 

Myth Number Nine: Only A Veterans Coffin Can Be Draped With The Flag

The Flag Code does not mention anywhere that the flag may only cover the casket of a veteran. This myth most likely comes from the fact that the Department of Veterans Affairs provides flags for veterans’ funeral services.

 

The blue field of stars should be put at the head and over the left shoulder of a coffin if used to cover it. It is not acceptable to lower the flag into the grave with the coffin or let it touch the ground.

 

Myth Number Ten: The Flag Must Always Be Folded Into A Triangle For Storage

Although it is tradition to fold the flag into a triangle with the blue Union and stars visible when storing, it is not in the Flag Code.

 

Where To Buy a Quality American Flag?

Flags are sold in many different places, but you should make sure you are purchasing a flag fit for our country. You want your flag to display your respect for America, so make sure it is made to last.


Allegiance Flag Supply should be your first and final stop for American flag shopping. They specialize in one product; the American flag. They offer honest production methods, and their flags are made right here in America!

 

Things To Remember

Never assume that the American flag means just one thing to every American citizen. The flag holds many different meanings.


Don't believe everything you hear. We hope that these myths we debunked for you today taught you a thing or two about American flags!

 

Sources:

 

We Asked Americans How They Feel About The U.S. Flag. It Got Interesting | NPR

History of Betsy Ross | Historic Philadelphia.

Short History of the United States Flag | Battlefields