A Brief Look at the History of United States Flag Designs

If you grew up attending public school in the United States, then you’ve probably heard the story about how a woman named Betsy Ross made the first flag. Unfortunately for Ross and her descendants, there really isn’t much evidence to back up the family’s claim.

In fact, the history of the United States flag is pretty complex, and the country has used many designs over the years. Check out this brief look at the history of the United States flag designs to learn more.

Early Militia Flags

Prior to the Revolution, a version of the UK’s Union Jack was the flag the colonies flew. When the Revolution broke out, individual militia groups started designing their own flags to differentiate themselves from the British. The very earliest of these militia flags that we know about today was the Bedford flag, which the Minutemen of Bedford, MA, flew at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Other early flags include the Gadsden flag, the Brandywine flag, and the Continental flag flown at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The Grand Union

Though the United States never declared it as an official flag, the Grand Union (or Continental Colors) was the earliest flag representing the independent colonies as a whole. George Washington flew this flag to celebrate the forming of the Continental Army. It has 13 familiar red and white stripes, but the blue field with stars is instead the Union Jack.

Betsy Ross and the Bennington Flag

Two early forms of the United States flag were the Betsy Ross flag and the Bennington flag. The Betsy Ross design has a circle of stars on a blue field in the corner, while the Bennington has an arch of stars and the number 76. One of the most common flag myths is that Ross’s flag was the first US flag.

To this day, no one has found documents proving the Ross family’s story about Betsy Ross making the first flag for George Washington. There also isn’t much evidence to place the Bennington flag at the actual Battle of Bennington.

The Star Spangled Banner

The War of 1812 inspired a new wave of patriotism in US citizens. During the war, people designed many different variations of the United States flag, possibly including the Bennington and Betsy Ross designs. However, one version quickly became more famous than any other: the Star Spangled Banner of Francis Scott Key’s poem, which is now the country’s national anthem. This flag has 15 red and white stripes with a blue field of 15 stars. You can visit the original flag at the Smithsonian Museum.

Old Glory

From the Civil War onward, the United States has used a flag of 13 red and white stripes and a blue field with stars in the upper left corner. The number of stars is equal to the number of states in the union, which is currently 50.

Other Historical Flags

The United States has used many different kinds of flags, especially in its early days. Other historical flags include the following:

  • Cowpens flag
  • Hulbert flag
  • Easton flag
  • Bunker Hill flag
  • George Rex flag
  • Pine Tree flag
  • Moultrie Liberty flag

Even a brief look at the history of the United States flag designs is enough to show how complex the story is. Ultimately, people in the US have a history of making many flags to represent their patriotism. We hope this guide was interesting to you!


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