Thursday, April 23, 2009

The American Flag


The flag of the United States of America is the symbol of the world's oldest republic.

In 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution that there should be a seal of the new United States of America. They intended this seal to be a symbol of the values that the founding fathers wanted the new nation to embody.

Each of the colors on the Great Seal of the United States had a particular meaning, and these meanings have carried forward to our flag.

The color red represents hardiness and valor. These were the qualities the founding fathers felt the new country needed in order to stand up to the British government. The red in our flag also reminds us of the blood shed by the Sons of Liberty to secure our independence, as well as that shed over the years to preserve our republic.

The color white represents purity and innocence as would befit the birth of a new nation. The white should also remind us of the pure vision and intent of our founding fathers. Even when we falter and become less than that vision, we should look to the white in our flag to remind us to return to the path of purity of purpose.

The color blue symbolizes vigilance, perseverance and justice. Vigilance against those who would do us harm; perseverance in the continuing pursuit of the vision of our country's founding fathers; justice for all Americans regardless of station in life or circumstances of birth, and for people of good will around the world.

Let the blue in our flag also remind you of the virtue of peace. The American Eagle depicted in the Great Seal grips the arrows of war in one talon, but be ever mindful that it carries the olive branch of peace in the other.

Our flag has thirteen stripes, one for each of the original thirteen colonies that rebelled against Great Britain. On the field of blue there are 50 stars in our firmament; one for each of our current 50 states. The number of stars is the only thing that changes on our flag.

The 1777 "Betsy Ross" flag is considered, at least in retrospect, to be the first "official" U.S. Flag. Several flags by several different designers were in use before (and after) the Betsy Ross flag. A popular story which has been passed down through the years tells us that one Betsy Ross sewed the first flag from a pencil sketch drawn by George Washington. That sounds a little too good to be true, and probably isn't.

Our flag has changed 26 times since that first flag, as other states and groups of states have entered the Union. States number 47 and 48 (New Mexico and Arizona) entered the Union in 1912 and there were no more changes to the flag until 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii were added. No version of the flag has lasted longer than the current 50-star flag.

A list of the dates each state entered the Union appears below. Each of the 50 sovereign states also has its own flag.
---------
  1. Delaware (7 Dec 1787)
  2. Pennsylvania (12 Dec 1787)
  3. New Jersey (18 Dec 1787)
  4. Georgia (2 Jan 1788
  5. Connecticut (9 Jan 1788)
  6. Massachusetts (6 Feb 1788)
  7. Maryland (28 Apr 1788)
  8. South Carolina (23 May 1788)
  9. New Hampshire (21 Jun 1788)
  10. Virginia (25 Jun 1788)
  11. New York (26 Jul 1788)
  12. North Carolina (21 Nov 1789)
  13. Rhode Island (29 May 1790)
  14. Vermont (4 Mar 1791)
  15. Kentucky (1 Jun 1792)
  16. Tennessee (1 Jun 1796)
  17. Ohio (1 Mar 1803)
  18. Louisiana (30 Apr 1812)
  19. Indiana (11 Dec 1816)
  20. Mississippi (10 Dec 1817)
  21. Illinois (3 Dec 1818)
  22. Alabama (14 Dec 1819)
  23. Maine (15 Mar 1820)
  24. Missouri (10 Aug 1821)
  25. Arkansas (15 Jun 1836)
  26. Michigan (26 Jan 1837)
  27. Florida (3 Mar 1845)
  28. Texas (29 Dec 1845)
  29. Iowa (28 Dec 1846)
  30. Wisconsin (29 May 1848)
  31. California (9 Sep 1850)
  32. Minnesota (11 May 1858)
  33. Oregon (14 Feb 1859)
  34. Kansas (29 Jan 1861)
  35. West Virginia (20 Jun 1863)
  36. Nevada (31 Oct 1864)
  37. Nebraska (1 Mar 1867)
  38. Colorado (1 Aug 1876)
  39. North Dakota (2 Nov 1889)
  40. South Dakota (2 Nov 1889)
  41. Montana (8 Nov 1889)
  42. Washington (11 Nov 1889)
  43. Idaho (3 Jul 1890)
  44. Wyoming (10 Jul 1890)
  45. Utah (4 Jul 1896)
  46. Oklahoma (16 Nov 1907)
  47. New Mexico (6 Jan 1912)
  48. Arizona (14 Feb 1912)
  49. Alaska (3 Jan 1959)
  50. Hawaii (21 Aug 1959)

17 comments:

A. said...

Oh dear, I remember when Hawaii became the 50th state. That must have been about the time my grandmother was joking about Ireland becoming the 51st state. Alaska, though I should have known, I missed altogether so I must have been away in the wilds where no news penetrated.

May I ask a question? I see that Vermont joined the original 13 less than a year after Rhode Island, so they must have been well established already. Why did they not join at the start? Really, this is what I meant when I asked my earlier question about what was happening elsewhere in the country. I know, I'm unreasonably asking for a full history of several volumes condensed into one post. Or less. :)

Stephanie B said...

I don't really have a comment other than I'm often skeptical of detailed descriptions of the meanings of very old symbols. Was this documented in the beginning or is this someone's interpretation of the meaning?

Not that I'm worried about it either way, it's just some of the wording regarding the colors doesn't sound like the wording the actual "founding fathers" would use ("remind us of the pure vision and intent of our founding fathers").

I've been thinking of our founding fathers disagreement and it occurs to me that we really have no real way of knowing who really was the influence and power behind much of it, perhaps even people we've never heard of that prefered to remain out of public perception. One never knows if a wife really thought up a key premise or people that never even lived through the revolution, but who had ideas they passed on to those that did.

I guess I'm having a hard time presuming (a) our nation was really founded on the thinking of no more than six (or seven) men and (b) we could positively identify them 200 years later. History favors the best documented, whether it's true or not.

Janet said...

Oh my dear Lord, Max, I wander off for two weeks and you start a war!!!!! I have 2 weeks of posts to read and all of them are thought-provoking, thoughtful, and comment-provoking, and apparently incendiary to boot.
I can't even begin to approach these right now. I am going outside. I'll be back after dark with some hot tea and chocolate, since alcohol is denied to me, and try to comment appropriately, intelligently, and hopefully in a mediating fashion. Because I hate confrontations.

frostygirl said...

Intersting about the 13 lines and the 13 stars on the older version of the American flag, in biblical numerology 13 stands for rebellion, very apt in this case seeing they rebelled against British rule

Relax Max said...

@A - Regarding Vermont, it had been a republic for several years, but apparently decided a better future lay with joining the American Union.

@Frostygirl - Interesting about the Biblical 13 standing for rebellion. Coincidence? :)

@Janet - I assure you I am not trying to start a war. I sometimes act like a bit of a know-it-all. I need to calm down. :)

Relax Max said...

@Stephanie - I removed my long earlier comment because, after reading it later, it was only an arrogant and know-it-all comment which really served no purpose except to try to make myself look good. That is really not the intent of this blog, although I seem to be doing that a lot lately.

Your subsequent comment about the pledge was taken down too, since without my smarty comment, yours didn't make as much sense. Feel free to make another free-standing comment about the pledge (or anything else) if you want.

Stephanie B said...

No, I'm good.

soubriquet said...

I love the reasons for the colours...
=Nothing to do with the fact that the British flag was red, white, and blue, then?
You'd think these dyed-in-the-wool revolutionaries would have rejected those colours as a gesture of defiance. I think they chose red, white and blue as be a comforting reminder of their days as part of the great british empire.

soubriquet said...

"to be" not "as be"... sorry, the tryping fimber is rebelling, it thinks I should go to bed, and sleeeeeeeeep.

Stephanie B said...

I tend to agree with you, soubriquet, but I'm not sure we'll get many to agree with us.

Relax Max said...

@Soubriquet - Of course you are right. Even my friend Stephanie agrees with you that the reason for the color choice was a nostalgic comforting reminder of being under British rule. My only dilemma is in choosing which things the Americans missed the most; was it the taxation without representation, or the forced quartering and feeding of British troops in their homes? Was it the appointment of puppet judges and governors, or was it the suspension of the legislatures altogether? Perhaps the changing of the places the legislatures were to meet? That was a good one. Each of these things, and so many more, is such a candidate for nostalgic longing, that it is hard to choose. As for myself, I think the thing I personally would have missed the most would have been the enslavement of American seamen on the high seas and their inscription to help fight Britain's wars. That's the one that would have brought sweet tears of remembrance to my eyes.

I invite you to read what Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had to say about how much the people were enjoying British rule in the Declaration of Independence.

I'm going out on a limb here and guess that the choice of colors for the Great Seal were not intended to commemorate the fond memory of the British.

soubriquet said...

Oh Max, you curmudgeon, taxation without representation is present in almost any nation. In theory, there is a member of parliament for this area where I live, who is nominally my representative in parliament. Leaving aside the question of how often any representative is actually in the chamber, debating, listening, voting, let us address the fact that I voted for this guy's opponent, he has a different ideology to me, and to my point of view, is unlikely to represent me. Forced quartering and feeding of british troops? Well, that was happening in England as well. Nobody much liked having an army in residence, 18th century armies were fairly uncouth creatures.
The army had, however, done its bit for your freedom, it had repelled the french, otherwise.... you'd be blogging en francais. Zut!
Puppet judges and legislatures? You mean ones dedicated to upholding the law as set down from Britain? Instead of appointing anti-british subversive terrorists, as judges who would seek to circumvent the laws of the colonies' legal rulers?
As for the navy, bear in mind that though you call them "american" seamen, at the time they were no such thing, they were seamen from british colonies in the americas. It's a very different thing. Forced conscription was rife here too. Ancestors of mine were kidnapped and tricked or forced into military service. The Press-Gang was active in Britain, but let us not forget that your very own Captain Nicholson, senior captain of the continental navy,in 1776 solved his crew recruitment problems by kidnapping, or "impressing" thirty citizens of Baltimore.

"Maryland governor Thomas Johnson demanded immediate release of the impressed men. Nicholson refused, stating impressment was common practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and some of the northern states.
Congress convinced Nicholson to release the impressed citizens of Baltimore, to avoid problems with the State of Maryland, but the practice of impressment continued where the local state legislature or governor gave consent. Nicholson avoided the need for local government consent by stopping the American merchant ships Holker and Fair American at sea in 1780, to impress men from their crews."

I think what I'm trying to say here, is that viewed from today, these things do seem onerous. But viewed in the context of their own times, the experience of the colonial citizens was no worse than that of the people in britain, indeed, for the most part it was better. I do understand the resentment that many felt at distant taxation, at the rules on trade, and on the lack of representation.
However, the revolution was an illegal uprising, and had it gone differently, Washington would have been hung.

Relax Max said...

@Soubriquet - You always take unfair advantage of me by being better read on peripheral issues.

I know you fully understand the issue of representation and are only poking that stick of yours in the American's spokes again, but, for the sake, at least, of readers with less knowledge, we are talking here not about one's individual representative, but a whole parliament who was neglecting the needs of their American brothers and sisters; simply not attending to pressing issues that were vital to the daily life and commerce of the Americans, while still, naturally, expecting the flow of goods and taxes to continue. Unreasonable to endure.

A revolution is not something taken lightly. You know that. And you know it wasn't taken lightly by the American Colonists. Some things just reach a boiling point, and the people who were being pushed to the breaking point didn't revolt until after many pleas had found a deaf ear - not only in parliament but by their British brethren directly.

You would make it seem that if the colonialists would only just hang on a little longer, good times were just up the road and around the bend. But they weren't, were they? The times were getting worse. After a while, these things tend to multiply in the minds of the people, and revolution foments.

I don't expect to ever convince you that the revolution was the right thing to do, or that Great Britain had it in their power to avoid it but blew it off, but sometimes that's just the way things happen.

One of the people who is NOT in dispute as a founding father wrote this:

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

l honestly believe this is true. To the point that I think our present government is pushing the envelope right now, too.

There is no need to debate whether all the things on Jefferson's long list of grievances were important or petty, but there were a few (more than a few, perhaps) legitimate complaints that simply were NOT being addressed. I SHOULD admit here that I was confusing the War of 1812 with the revolution with regard to the impressment of American seamen on the high seas. So, I'm sorry about that one. You were right - it doesn't make much sense to bitch about taking your own countrymen to serve their country. Later, it WAS a violation.

If I know you, I know you are about to get really bored and wander off. Please don't. I promise to make this more interesting to you shortly. That is, if you enjoy a drawn-out theoretical debate that is not going to change anything. :)

soubriquet said...

You got me with that last line, parry riposte, parry riposte, but there it is, a lunge, and I was too slow to dance aside. Damn! Looks like blood. If you will excuse me a moment I will have my man attend to it and bind up the wound, then, if it please you, we shall return to the fray.

Yes, it's true I'm prone to wandering off, I just get easily distracted.
It's about time I came clean and told the truth. In fact I am a renegade American.

soubriquet said...

Well, no, that was just a lie to get me off the hook.
You see, I do enjoy a good argument or debate, and in fact I will happily argue a position contrary to my own beliefs if I think I can make it sound convincing. These discussions regarding the colonial mutiny are a case in point.
Life and prospects in the old world were no basket of peaches, and settlers left England for numerous destinations in the growing empire. Life in the military was harsh and recruitment was ofen by trickery or force. Often, joining the military was given as an alternative to jail or hanging, so squadrons of soldiery tended to be people to avoid. They were brutally disciplined by their officers. The officer corps was full of people who had bought their commissions, not won them on merit. The aristocracy, by chance of birth, ruled. A person of humble originscould not rise far before the impossible barrier of social class, or caste, intervened.
It would be unwise to view the uprising of the colonialists as simply a colonial artifact. To understand it, one must look beyond, at the situation in Britain, at the constant jockeying for power of the european nations and at the global ambitions of the powerful nations.

I'll confess my recollection of learning the history of those times is not as good as I would wish it to be. In keeping with the established convention, I will go with what I think I know, and eschew the temptation to re-read.
For a hundred or more years attempts had been made by britain to persuade the colonies to come together, and adopt common laws and values, all of these attempts were refused by colonies who each saw themselves as independent entities, almost as separate countries.Vastly different socio-political and religious influences reigned. Some colonies were successful commercial enterprises, growing and exporting mostly cotton, sugar and tobacco, others were hunting economies trading in furs, others existed mainly as havens of religious communities, less concerned with trade. Mutual interests such as defence existed, but they looked to britain to provide troops for their protection.
Had the colonies been willing to come together earlier, and adopt a common rule, it is likely that some form of local american parliament might have occurred. This not being so, governance remained two and a half thousand miles and two months distant.
The british were fighting a war with France, and part of that war, against the french and their indian allies in canada was seen not just as a blow against the french and the taking of their teritories, but also as a protection of the northern flank of the american colonies. It was considered only reasonable that your forbears pay some of the cost of that war. However, they bridled at being taxed, as they saw it, by a distant state, both factions saw the other's stance as unreasonable.

I can indeed sympathise with the revolutionaries, I can understand their frustration and their wish for self determination, I understand the anger that their approaches to parliament and the king were unsuccessful.
I can understand those idealists who proposed a new state, a nation built on a written constitution, a set of laws created anew, a state with no king nor hereditary aristocracy, nor ruling church. It was, and is, an admirable concept. But I still maintain that the american view of those days is a little too tinged with rosy tinted glasses, that it's easy to see it as a heroic battle against tyranny, and of right defeating might.
A little like the russian revolution.
The war of Independence, or the illegal colonial mutiny, was a bloody war not wished for by most of the citizens, nor was it forced upon them by a tyrannous foreign power. I submit that it came about precisely because of colonial intransigence which militated against local self rule.

soubriquet said...

The Russian revolution... I don't mean I see it as right defeating might, but that its supporters did, and the victors get to write the history, so just like yours, it became enshrined in the victor's records as a "glorious emancipation of the people".
Despite the fact that, like most revolutions, most of the people were not consulted, and a lot of people were too dead to put a different point of view.

Relax Max said...

@Soubriquet - Well, since you admit to my drawing first virtual blood (parry riposte, parry riposte, lunge, a la dueling literary Zorros) I will myself gracefully back off a tad or two and admit to knowing only barely more than total jack shit about Georgian England. Further, I will concede that PROBABLY your average Welsh coal miner/church choir member (they WERE mining coal in Wales by 1776?) or London hack driver would have been unlikely to have had the grievances of the downtrodden American colonialists very high up on their list of things to worry about.

Having said that, there were plenty of folks sleeping on the padded benchs in the House of Lords who had their personal inheritances invested in cane sugar and tobacco off across the pond, to where parliament SHOULD have taken some sort of action, if only to save the fortunes of the upper chamber’s collective arsei.

But they did not, and therefore deserve none of your sympathy in retrospect, any more than they deserved the loyalty and devotion of George Milhouse Washington, et al.

Your hint at being, at heart, at least grudgingly sympathetic to the American cause (or as you put it, a “renegade American”), was also taken with the sharply-narrowed eyes of suspicious disbelief over at the Relax Max kennel of character puppets — seeing as how we are all aware of your parentage and grand-parentage - not to mention your more-than-casual acquaintance of polished owls in Leeds. Unless you lied about that too, which is entirely possible (and even permitted in these types of discussions), since the outcome is already cast in stone lo these many years and nothing either of us says in that regard, in the grand scheme of such things, will correct even one constitutional misspelling or refund me even one stolen tax dollar, any more than if the owl had sailed off entirely without the pussycat altogether, metaphorically speaking.

Where was I?

Ah, yes - trying without actually saying the words, to admit you might have had a legitimate point or two.

Faithfully,
Publius

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