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Early Flags of the 13 Colonies

Published on
July 3, 2024 at 10:22:35 AM PDT July 3, 2024 at 10:22:35 AM PDTrd, July 3, 2024 at 10:22:35 AM PDT

The American flag is an iconic symbol of our history, stirring pride and devotion from citizens nationwide. While the United States flag is among the most recognized in the world, the flags of the original 13 colonies each tell their own unique story. These early flags symbolize exploration, resilience, and the formation of our national identity.


It is worth noting that most of the 13 colonies did not fly individual ensigns, as they held close ties with England, their mother country. Let's explore how the 13 colonies' flags transformed into our national ensign to gain a deeper appreciation of America's greatest symbol.

Explore our full collection of historical U.S. flags crafted from the finest materials to ensure unmatched vibrancy and durability. Our flags are the perfect addition to any home or business. Shop today at Carrot-Top. 


Early Flags of North America: King's Colors Flags  


For centuries, flags have been used to communicate messages. In our nation's infancy, European colonies used flags to symbolize their claim on North American land and mark their ships at sea. One significant example of this is the King's Colors flag


In 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, famously merging the Scottish and English kingdoms. In 1606, to showcase this unity, King James merged the flags of Scotland (St. Andrew's Cross) and England (St. George's Cross) together, creating the King's Colors flag. 


During America's early years, England flew the King's Colors all over the thirteen colonies. It was likely seen over government buildings, ships, and forts as a sign of Britain's sovereignty over colonial land. The flag was a constant reminder for colonists of England's power and their allegiance to the British crown.  

Purchase one of the first 13 colonies' flags, the King's Colors, at Carrot-Top! These flags are crafted from exclusive long-lasting SolarMax nylon for unbeatable durability. 


In addition to the King's Colors, another popular flag flown by the 17th-century Royal Navy was the Red Ensign, also known as the Red Duster. Later adopted by British merchantmen, it became the official civil ensign for the British merchant fleet. 


Purchase your own British Red Ensign Flag and celebrate a beautiful piece of world history today. 


The Pine Tree Flag  


The Pine Tree flag isn't one specific ensign but a general term for flags flown in New England between 1686 and 1776. Many believe the use of the pine tree comes from the Sons of Liberty, who would meet under a pine tree dubbed the Liberty Tree. 


In 1775, the Massachusetts Merchant Navy adopted the pine tree ensign and added the phrase "Appeal to Heaven." Although the Massachusetts Navy was later destroyed in the Battle of Penobscot Bay in 1971, the white flag with a pine tree reemerged as the official emblem of the Massachusetts Naval flag.


Buy an Appeal to Heaven flag and show your appreciation for the historical ensigns that shaped the formation of the USA.  


The state of Maine is currently seeing a push to return to the original Pine Tree flag design as a nationwide resurgence in popularity for embracing historical flags continues.  


Massachusetts Bay Colony Flag 



The Massachusetts Bay Colony flag has an interesting history, arising in response to religious colonists' concern over the British use of the cross of St. George on their ensign. Seen as an idol, the protestant colony removed the cross from the flag in 1630, leaving only a red standard with a plain white canton. 


This flag remained the official ensign for the colony for around 50 years until the cross was no longer deemed "un-Christian" and was once again placed within the blank canton. In the early 1700s, another version of the ensign named the Continental Flag with a green Pine Tree inside the white canton was introduced so American ships could recognize each other during the Revolutionary War.  


You can purchase a unique Continental flag from Carrot-Top and pay homage to the brave Americans who fought against tyranny to secure our country's freedom. 


Sons of Liberty Flag  


One of the most unique yet familiar-looking flags is the Sons of Liberty flag. Unlike the American flag, which boasts red and white horizontal stripes, this historical flag contained nine vertical red stripes.


Each stripe represented one of the nine colonies that attended the Stamp Act Congress. Those were South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. With the repeal of the Stamp Act, four more stripes were added to include all of the colonies and the stripes were turned horizontal. This design is still used on the American flag today. 


Buy a Sons of Liberty flag and fly an important part of U.S. history. 


Grand Union Flag  


The Grand Union flag is viewed as a predecessor to the American flag and was used to signify the colony's united front against the British. It combined the British Union flag and the thirteen red and white stripes from the Sons of Liberty flag. 


While it had many nicknames, the Continental Colors is one of the most popular. This ensign sent a clear message to the British that the colonists weren't afraid to fight for their rights as Englishmen. However, it wasn't a clear call to arms for a separation from England's governance.  


Shop our selection of Grand Union flags, with vibrant colors and superior durability. 


Betsy Ross Flag  


While the official story of the Betsy Ross flag is up for debate, legend says that in March of 1776, three members of the Continental Congress, George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris, approached her and asked her to sew the country's first flag. 


General Washington showed her the design, which included a six-pointed star. Betsy Ross suggested using five-pointed stars, explaining that she could cut the shape with scissors in a single snip. The stars were placed in a circular design, changing often until 1783 when Pierre L'Enfant drew a version of 13 stars sitting within the blue canton. 


Purchase a high-quality Betsy Ross flag with the iconic 13 stars from Carrot-Top.


Other Notable Flags of the 13 Colonies  


Guilford Courthouse Flag - One of the earliest versions of the U.S. flag, the Guilford Courthouse flag was carried on March 15th, 1781, by the North Carolina militia at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.  


Brandywine Flag - The Brandywine flag was flown during the Battle of Brandywine, one of the earliest battles in the Revolutionary War.  


Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" Flag - The Gadsden flag is a Revolutionary War symbol showcasing the determination and resiliency of early American colonies.  


Shop Historical Flags at Carrot-Top  


Carrot-Top is proud to be the largest supplier of quality historical flags made in the United States of America. These stunning ensigns make festive decorations for any holiday, including:  


  • Memorial Day  
  • The 4th of July  
  • Labor Day  
  • And more!  


Whether you pair them with streamers or fly them atop a flagpole, they make the perfect addition to any flag display. Discover the American-made difference with Carrot-Top.