11 Surprising Facts You Never Knew About The American Flag

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

Most of us remember starting every school day by standing at our desks and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, but do you really know all of the history behind the Stars and Stripes?

With Flag Day on June 14, 2017, and Fourth of July quickly approaching, it’s definitely time to take a closer look.

Growing up, we’re taught stories about Betsy Ross and the inspiration behind our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” However, you might be surprised to learn some of the so-called facts we learned over the years might not be as accurate as we thought.

Despite all the ways “Old Glory” has changed her appearance over time, the flag is a lasting symbol of freedom that Americans have looked to for 240 years, since its debut in 1777.

Take a look below to learn more about the flag’s incredible history and the surprising misconceptions most folks have been led to believe for centuries.

And don’t forget to SHARE all the patriotic info with your loved ones!

Thumbnail Photo: The United States Marine Corps

1. The First Flag Was Introduced On June 14, 1777

american flag with 13 stars

There are several stories as to who actually commissioned the first version of the Stars and Stripes. Some claim George Washington made the request while others cite Thomas Green, an American Indian named who wanted an official banner to carry while traveling through Pennsylvania.

Regardless of who really asked for it, the first flag design was completed on June 14, 1777, which we celebrate annually as Flag Day.

2. Betsy Ross Might Not Have Designed It

Betsy Ross

Most of us were taught that Betsy brought the first ever design to George Washington, but there is no definitive proof that she came up with the idea herself. She did sew quite a few of them in her time, though.

According to the History Channel, some historians believe the design was by Francis Hopkinson, a New Jersey delegate who signed the Declaration of Independence.

3. It Had 15 Stripes At One Point

american flag with 15 stripes

Following the admission of the 14th and 15th states, Vermont and Kentucky, the design added on both stars and stripes to represent the states on January 13, 1794.

4. The Design We Use Today Was Created By A High Schooler

folding american flag

At just 17-years-old, Robert G. Heft from Lancaster, Ohio, designed the 50-star flag following the admission of Hawaii and Alaska to the union in 1959.

According to the official website for the flag, despite being chosen for the official design, Robert received a B-minus in his class for the project.

5. You Can Visit The Flag That Inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner”

star-spangled banner american flag

The actual flag that was raised over Fort McHenry as a signal of victory over the British troops at the Battle of Baltimore, September 14, 1814, is on display in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian.

It is also notable for being the 15 stars and 15 stripes design, as well as missing quite a few chunks that were clipped off and sold as souvenirs.

6. It Has An Official Title

classroom pledge of allegiance to american flag

Its official title is “Flag of the United States,” but is often referred to by nicknames like the American Flag, Old Glory, and the Stars and Stripes.

7. There Have Been 27 Different Designs

different american flag designs

The latest design is also the longest-held version of the flag, lasting now for over 50 years with the same appearance.

8. All Of The Stars Have To Have One Point Facing Up

stars on american flag

You can’t just fling the stars onto the blue patch all willy-nilly, according to the Flag Code. It demands a more unified look, with all of the stars aligned in the same direction.

9. It Can Be Displayed At Night With Proper Lighting

american flag at night

The Flag Code also states that it should only be displayed from sunrise to sunset, but for those who feel the need to show their patriotic spirit 24 hours a day, they must also invest in proper lighting to shine on the Stars and Stripes.

According to the American Legion, the “proper illumination” is essentially a spotlight on the flag that makes it recognizable to anyone passing by.

10. You Don’t Have To Destroy It If It Touches The Ground

american flag on the ground

Although the Flag Code states that the flag should touch nothing beneath it, like the ground, it is simply to emphasize the extreme care one should have while handling the flag.

Accidents happen of course, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be destroyed anytime someone slips up — as long as it’s clean and suitable for display, even if that means washing or dry cleaning the material, the American Legion claims that it is perfectly fine to continue use.

11. The Colors Represent American Values

waving american flag

The official website states that the colors were taken from the same symbolism used in the Great Seal to represent virtues of our country.

Red signifies hardiness and valor, white signifies purity and innocence, and blue represents the color of the Chief.

They go on to say that the stars act as a “symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial” while the stripes are “symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.”

Adding gold fringe is done for “honorable enrichment only” and may only be used for flags on display indoors.

Did you learn something new about Old Glory? Be sure to SHARE all the surprising facts with your friends and family!