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American Flag: Complete History from 1777 to Date

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November 18, 2021 at 4:01:09 PM PST November 18, 2021 at 4:01:09 PM PSTth, November 18, 2021 at 4:01:09 PM PST

Truth be told, the current Old Glory is not that old. As a matter of fact, the contemporary design has been flying in front of American homes and institutions since 1959. Therefore, you can guess the history of the Stars and Stripes was quite turbulent, so let’s take a closer look at how it all started and how we got to the final look of fifty white stars on the blue surface


US Flag with 13 Stars (1777-1795)


What history books cite is that a New Jersey congressman and the Declaration of Independence signer, Francis Hopkinson, designed the flag with thirteen stars, representing thirteen ex-British colonies.


The flag was active for 18 years and during George Washington’s rule.


US Flag with 15 Stars (1795-1818)


It is this flag with fifteen stars that “spoke to” Francis Scott Key and inspired him to write the anthem. The flag was added a new star thanks to Vermont in 1791 and another one was added a year later when Kentucky became the 15th state.  


Apparently, Francis Scott Key had an epiphany when he saw the flag flying high after the British bombardment in the War of 1812.


US Flag with 20 Stars (1818-1819)


The twenty-star flag had a brief existence of one year during James Monroe’s rule. Interestingly, this is one of the nine flags with such a short lifespan.


The US flag was getting a bit crowded, to say so. Therefore, it was concluded that no more stripes were needed and that 13 stripes should suffice. The Congress unveiled the flag with new stars on today’s national holiday — 4th July.


Yet, five more stars were added as five more states joined the alliance. Tennessee joined first in 1796. The 19th century welcomed Ohio (1803), Louisiana (1812), Indiana (1816), and Mississippi (1817).


US Flag with 21 Stars (1819-1820)


The state of Illinois is the main “culprit” for the new flag. By joining the union, it was due to be represented with a new star added to the previous flag.


US Flag with 23 Stars (1820-1822)


Alabama and Maine joined in 1819 and 1820, respectively, which called for a new flag revelation on 4th July 1820.


US Flag with 24 Stars (1822-1836)


Compared to the previous flags, the twenty-four stars flag lasted for quite some time and three different presidents served under it, including Andrew Jackson.


The 24-star flag is known to be a bit controversial since the new state was Missouri. This is the aftermath of the Missouri Compromise, which was set to create a balance between the states that were for and against slavery.


US Flag with 25 Stars (1836-1837)


Another one-year flag and another slave state. Arkansas star was added in 1836.


US Flag with 26 Stars (1837-1845)


After the admission of Arkansas, it was felt like the balance between slave and free states had to be restored. This was achieved with some turbulence when Michigan joined the Union in 1837 as a free state. 


President Andrew Jackson certainly helped a lot since Michigan was granted statehood only after it had been awarded land from the Upper Peninsula. Previously, a border discord with Ohio was the issue.


US Flag with 27 Stars (1845-1846)


Another ex-colony joined in, but this time it was a former Spanish colony — Florida. 


US Flag with 28 Stars (1846-1847)


A short, but very sweet period in the history of the American flag. 1846 is the year of Texas admission. The Lone Star state had finally broken away from Mexico and was therefore ready to join the Union as the biggest state (regarding the landmass). Not before becoming an independent republic of its own, though.


US Flag with 29 Stars (1847-1848)


Another free state to bring the balance in the antebellum period. Iowa got its place among the US stars on July 4th.


US Flag with 30 stars (1848-1851)


Right after Iowa, Wisconsin became the new state in May 1848 and the flag was once again added a star in July. A big step for Wisconsin as the idea about joining had been rejected four times due to the fear of high taxes.


US Flag with 31 Stars (1851-1858)


California brought great joy to the Union in 1851 as Americans could finally claim the nation extends from one ocean to the other. Curiously, it was the Gold Rush that was the accelerator in the run for statehood and eventually California becoming the 31st star.


US Flag with 32 Stars (1858-1859)


Another free state became a proud member of the Union — Minnesota.


US Flag with 33 Stars (1859-1861)


Despite the fact there were some efforts from proslavery senators, Oregon was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1859.


US Flag with 34 Stars (1861-1863)


Kansas became the 34th state in the time when Abraham Lincoln was elected president.


US Flag with 35 Stars (1863-1865)


As the Civil War was raging, it was questionable whether a new star will be added to the Old Glory. President Lincoln had doubts about allowing the western part of Virginia to join the Union. Eventually, he found the decision in accordance with the Constitution and so the flag started flying with 35 stars on July 4th, 1863.


US Flag with 36 Stars (1865-1867)


175 pages of Nevada’s constitution were sent to Washington, D.C. in telegram form, all in the endeavor to become the 36th state. And so, the 36th star on the flag was born.


US Flag with 37 Stars (1867-1877)


As opposed to the previous years, this American flag’s appearance was not so symmetrical with two stars separated on the left. It was all thanks to the growth of railroads — their economic boom helped Nebraska reach its statehood and alter the flag.


US Flag with 38 Stars (1877-1890)     


With Colorado’s admission in 1877, the American flag regained its symmetry once again. As a matter of fact, the stars were forming a somewhat oval shape on the blue surface, remaining like this for the following 13 years.


US Flag with 43 Stars (1890-1891)


Just one year for the somewhat zigzag look of forty-three stars and a huge success for America overall. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington came to join in 1889, and Idaho in 1890, which brought us to this flag that lasted only a year.


US Flag with 44 Stars (1891-1896)


The next design of the Stars and Stripes lasted for five years, and the flag’s appearance was visibly different once again. Wyoming was about 5,000 people short of gaining statehood, yet it was admitted in 1891 and the flag was changed once again.


US Flag with 45 Stars (1896-1908)


Another star and new looks that lasted for a while. Once polygamy was renounced in Utah’s constitution, this change allowed for the 45th star to be added and alter the US flag.


US Flag with 46 Stars (1908-1912)


Oklahoma joined the party, which called for a new star alignment. This time, there were 8 stars in a line at the top and bottom, while the remaining forty stars were in between, in a somewhat circular fashion.


US Flag with 48 Stars (1912-1959)


For a good part of the 20th century, the American flag boasted forty-eight-star states. New Mexico and Arizona both joined in 1912, and this flag was flying the longest until it was retired in 1959.


US Flag with 49 Stars (1959-1960)


Alaska made precedence as the first non-contiguous territory. It was bought from Russia and finally, there was a state bigger than Texas. The new flag remained like this for one year only.


US Flag with 50 Stars (1960-present day)


At last, the state of Hawaii got its own star, and the Star-Spangled Banner got its final glory looks that we know today.


What About 51 Stars?


An American flag with fifty-one stars is, naturally, not the official flag, but it’s a design used by advocates of the idea of the 51st state. For instance, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico are seen as potential statehood candidates. Whether we shall see any additions to the Stars and Stripes remains to be seen.