Thursday, July 5, 2007

50 Stars

The flag of the United States is something with which we are all familiar. Many business and several households fly it every day. It's on the uniform of the men and women serving our country. It's in the heart of many who love this country.

The first flag, the 13-star "Betsy Ross flag," was authorized by Congress on June 14, 1777 ... which is why that's celebrated as Flag Day. That flag, or a variation of it, flew over this country until Vermont (1791) and Kentucky (1792) joined the Union. It was not until 1795 that the flag was changed to reflect those 2 states. But, the new flag had not just 15 stars, but also 15 stripes. That's the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry, and was the subject of Frances Scott Key's poem that later became the Star-Spangled Banner.

Even though Tennessee joined the Union in 1796, the flag remained unchanged. In fact, it remained unchanged through the admission of Ohio (1803), Louisiana (1812), Indiana (1816), and Mississippi (1817). In 1818, the 5 new states were finally reflected in the flag with the change to 20 stars. The stripes were reduced back to the original 13.

Illinois was admitted to the Union in 1818, and the flag was changed the next year.

Alabama (1819) and Maine (1820) led to the 1820 increase to 23 stars.

Missouri (1821) was reflected in 1822, as was Arkansas (1836) in 1836. Michigan (1837) brought the 26-star flag in 1837. Florida's admission to the Union necessitated the 1845 change of the flag.

Texas (1845) meant the flag would increase to 28 stars in 1846. Iowa (1846) brought the number of states to 29, and in 1847 the flag reflected that. Wisconsin (1848) brought the number of stars to 30.

California (1850) led to the increase to 31 stars in 1851, while Minnesota (1858) brought the number of stars to 32. Oregon (1859) made the total 33, Kansas (1861) brought the 34th star, West Virginia (1863) the 35th, and Nevada (1864) made it 36 in 1865.

Nebraska (1867) brought the number of states and stars to 37, while Colorado (1876) made it 38 in 1877.

Things got busy in 1889 when North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington were added to the Union. Idaho was added in 1890, meaning that the 1890 flag would reflect an increase from 38 to 43 stars. Wyoming was admitted to the Union 6 days after the new flag was flown, which meant it would be 1891 before the 44-star flag would fly.

Utah brought the flag to 45 stars in 1896, and Oklahoma (1907) brought the 46-star flag in 1908.

New Mexico and Arizona were added to the Union in 1912, and the flag reflected 48 stars beginning July 4, 1912. That flag flew for 47 years, until 1959, when Alaska became the 49th state and was reflected with the 49-star flag.

Later in 1959, Hawaii was admitted to the Union, bringing the number of states to 50. On July 4 1960, the 50-star flag was first flown.

That 50-star flag has now flown 47 years and 1 day, longer than any other flag in the history of this country.


  1. You know, the Green Mountain State was one of the 13 ratifiers of the Constitution and Rhode Island, "Rogues' Island", acceded to the rest of the country after 12/13 original colonies plus New Hampshire were about to impose tarrifs, so that's the 14th star. Just figures you'd like to correct your numebrs up there. ;-)
    Honza P - the "P" stands for "pedant".

  2. Whoopsie! Mea culpa.
    See below, wiht myt replies infra.
    From: Basil
    Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2007 9:51 AM
    To: Honza Pl
    Subject: Re: [Basil's Blog] Comment: "50 Stars"

    Well, I don't see where my numbers are inaccurate. The original flag represented the states that signed the Declaration of Independence, and remained that way despite the fact that Virginia didn't ratify the Constitution until days after it was certified (the 1st colony became the 10th state), New York ratifying about a month later (the 11th state, though the flag had 13 stars), North Carolina ratifying after Washington was already serving as president, followed by Rhode Island in May, 1790.

    Rhode Island's ratification brought the number of states that had ratified the Constitution to 13 ... the same 13 colonies that had signed, at various times, the Declaration of Independence.[Honza Prchal] 14, because of Vermont (I erroneously said New Hampshire), which wasn't a colony and broke off from Vermont, NY and Massachusetts, was a state before Rhode Island. That's the extra one. Granted, it's an itty bitty state (and so significant I got it confused with its equally teensy neighbor), but ....

    [Honza P] Aha! on re-reading, I see you did include Vermont. Basically, I am an idiot, pointing out errors which were not there.

    The 13-star flag was the official flag when there were only 9 states on board the Constitution, and remained the official flag until after Vermont and Kentucky were added to the Union. [Honza P] Correct. See above for my idiotitude.

    Perhaps I've missed some subtle point regarding the dates, but my research indicates that Vermont declared itself a separate republic in 1777, and remained that way until it joined the US in 1791.

    You certainly provided additional information and a historical perspective on things, but the raw numbers I have still look correct to me. [Honza P] On inspection, me too.

    Thanks for the additional facts, though. I always enjoy these little tidbits. [Honza P] That's only because you need not live with me. My wife and daughter often find me highly tiresome.

  3. Surprising no one is offended by the current flag for one reason or would not surprise me in today's climate.


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