The flag of the United States, often referred to as the American flag consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton which signifies the “union” which has fifty small, white, five pointed stars. The 50 stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of America. The 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the U.S. The American Flag is also known as The Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, and The Star-Spangled Banner. The June 14, 1777 version of the flag only had 13.
In 1960, the flag was changed to include 50 stars which represent all 50 states of the United States of America. The current flag is the 27th version.
Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a naval flag designer, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, designed the 1777 flag while he was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department, sometime between his appointment to that position in November 1776 and the time that the flag resolution was adopted in June 1777. Hopkinson was the only person to have made such a claim during his own lifetime, when he sent a letter and several bills to Congress for his work. These claims are documented in the Journals of the Continental Congress and George Hasting’s biography of Hopkinson. This contradicts the legend of the Betsy Ross flag, which suggests that she sewed the first Stars and Stripes flag by request of the government in the Spring of 1776. The War Board sent a letter to George Washington on May 10, 1779, documenting that there was still no design established for a national flag for the Army’s use in battle.
The origin of the stars and stripes design has been muddled by a story that originated with the descendants of Betsy Ross. The story credits Betsy Ross for sewing the first flag from a pencil sketch handed to her by George Washington. No evidence for this exists either in the diaries of George Washington nor in the records of the Continental Congress. Ross’ grandson, William Canby, first publicly suggested the story in 1870. Ross ran an upholstery business and she had never made a flag as of the supposed visit in June 1776. Betsy’s grandson admitted that his own search through the Journals of Congress and other official records could not corroborate his grandmother’s story.
The family of Rebecca Young claimed that she sewed the first flag. Her daughter was Mary Pickersgill, who made the Star Spangled Banner Flag. According to rumor, the Washington family coat of arms, shown in a 15th-century window of Selby Abbey, was the origin of the stars and stripes.