It’s safe to assume that we all learned the meaning of the iconic stars and stripes of the American flag while we were in elementary school. Just to be safe, let’s give our brains a refresher. The 50 stars on the flag stand for the 50 states in our country. The stripes symbolize the 13 original colonies.

It's hard to understand what the American flag stands for without having a little background knowledge. We are going to recount the history of the American flag for you.


A Brief History Of The Flag

In January of 1776, the Continental Army reorganized and placed American armed forces under George Washington’s control. The Continental Army was surrounding Boston that they were trying to wrestle back from the British Army. George Washington ordered his troops to hoist the Grand Union flag above their base at Prospect Hill. The flag had thirteen white and red stripes and a British Union Jack in the left corner.

On June 14, 1777, Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act to establish an official flag for the new nation. The act stated, "Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."

Congress passed many different acts that changed the shape, design, and arrangement of the American flag. These changes in design occurred between the years 1777 and 1960. These acts allowed for additional stars and stripes, and they reflected the addition of each new state in America.


The Acts

The Act of January 13th, 1794, established a flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes. Following this was the act of April 4th, 1818, signed by President Monroe. This act stated that there were to be thirteen stripes on the flag and one star added to represent each state in the country. A star was added on the 4th of July after every new state’s admission into the country.

On June 24th, 1912, President Taft passed executive orders that established the flag’s proportions. Similarly, an Executive Order from President Eisenhower declared the stars’ arrangement on January 3rd, 1959. There were to be seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically. On August 21st, 1959, the arrangement was tweaked. The stars were arranged in nine rows, staggered horizontally, and eleven rows of stars were staggered vertically.


The Modern Flag

Today, the American flag we all know and love consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red, alternating with six white stripes. The stripes are there to signify the original 13 colonies, and the stars represent the 50 states of the Union.


Color Symbolism

  • Red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor.
  • White symbolizes Purity and Innocence.
  • Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance, and Justice.

The Stars

Many of us know that the number of stars on the flag has fluctuated throughout history. When a new state joined the United States of America, another star was added to the flag. On July 4, 1960, the United States officially gave Hawaii a star on the flag. The final star completed the flag design we are familiar with today.

It may surprise you, but the star's shape on the flag has varied throughout history. Before the end of the 18th century, it was more commonplace to have six, seven, and eight-pointed stars on the flag than the five-pointed star.

Some rumors indicate that Americans chose the five-pointed star to further separate American's identity from Europe's. Another theory is that Betsy Ross decided to go with a five-pointed star because it was easier to snip out with scissors. The five-pointed star is a unique symbol of American identity.


The Star Count Over The Years

As mentioned, we added stars to the flag's design as states entered the Union. We will break down the specific states that entered the union over time and the star count throughout history.

Between 1777 and 1795, 13 stars were added to the flag. Those states were Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.

From 1795 to 1818, more stars were added to represent Kentucky and Vermont, bringing the grand total of stars to 15.

Between 1818 and 1819, five stars were added for the states Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee. This brought the count of stars to 20. The addition of Illinois brought the star count to 21 between 1819 and 1820.

Alabama and Maine were given stars between the years 1820 and 1822. From 1822 to 1890, 15 stars were added to the flag design to represent the following states; Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, California, Minnesota, Oregon, Kansas, West Virginia, Nevada, Nebraska, and Colorado. By this point in time, the star count was 38.

Between 1890 and 1891, five more stars were added, bringing the count to 43. The states added in that year were Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington. Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico were given stars between 1891 and 1959. This brought the star count to 48.

It's common knowledge that Alaska and Hawaii were the last states to enter our Union. Alaska received a star between the years 1959 and 1960. Hawaii got its star in 1960. The modern design of the flag has 50 stars and 13 stripes. It took quite a while to get there.


triangle flag




What Does The American Flag Stand For Figuratively?

The American flag is more than just a tool to commemorate the 50 states in our country and the 13 original colonies. The flag serves as a unifier for American citizens. Though America is a melting pot of different cultures, religions, and races, the flag serves as a visual representation of the common ground we have as Americans. No matter our differences, we are all citizens of The United States of America.

Through times of hardship and suffering, the flag can bring our country together. For example, when the devastating attack on the Twin Towers took place in New York City on September 11, 2001, the flag was there for us. Not only was the flag flown and displayed as a sign of solidarity, but there was also a general sense of unity amongst the American people. The flag was used as a tool to bring us together.

It stands for democracy and freedom. Our country was founded upon those principles. Such ideals are at the core of the flag's meaning.

Democracy is a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislators. As Americans, it's easy to take our freedom to vote for granted. It's important to remind ourselves how lucky we are to have such privilege in this country. Other countries aren't as fortunate. The flag visually reminds of the monumental importance of democracy. If we let go of democracy, America will have failed as a country.

Freedom goes hand-in-hand with democracy. Without the right to vote, we would not be a free and fair country—America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. The flag will never let us forget it.


How To Show Your Support For America?

A great way to show that you are proud to be an American is by displaying the stars and stripes in your home, workplace, or outdoor environment.

If you are in need of a flag supplier, Allegiance Flag Supply is a top-notch vendor of American flags. Their flags are perfect for any setting. Allegiance has a passion for flag-making and America. Every flag is hand-made. Their flags are durable enough to withstand any outdoor conditions.

Their business platform is excellent for the American economy. They create jobs in America for Americans. You can feel good about supporting American businesses when you buy products from Allegiance Flag Supply.

Their product line includes various-sized flags, flagpole kits, accessories, and more!


In Conclusion

The American flag is not some arbitrary design of stars and stripes. Each star represents a different state, and the stripes commemorate the 13 original colonies. We look to the flag to unify the American people. It is a visual representation of our country's core values. Freedom and democracy are at the forefront of those principles.

Displaying an American flag in your home is a great way to show your pride and support for America. Check out Allegiance Flag Supply to get your own American flag today.

The American flag is literal and figurative in its representation. The next time you look up at an American flag flying blissfully in the breeze, we hope you stop and think about the myriad of meanings behind the great and iconic design.




Today in History - June 14 | Library of Congress

The Meaning and History of the American Flag and Why We Honor It | Owlcation

What Is a Democracy? |


Andres Jimenez