American Flag History

You see the flag often if you live in the United States—from battlefields to turrets to your front porch! But do you know the American flag’s history? Let’s learn about the history of the US flag. Then be sure to print the mini-book from our US Constitution and Government Course, which offers even more information.

“Rebellious” Stripes

The history of the American flag as we know and love it today begins before the United States was a unified nation, when many flags were flying throughout the original 13 colonies.

In 1765 the Sons of Liberty designed a flag with nine vertical stripes. Britain outlawed the new flag and claimed the stripes were “rebellious.” The group then changed the design, and for the first time, 13 red and white stripes (representing the 13 colonies) flew on the flag. Ten years later, either Benjamin Franklin or George Washington designed the Grand Union Flag, also known as the “Continental Colors,” for use by the troops.

Grand Union Flag

The First Stars and Stripes

Legend has it that in 1776, George Washington and two others visited the Philadelphia home of Betsy Ross and requested that she make a new flag. The “Betsy Ross flag” was one of the earliest American flags made with the iconic stars and stripes.

Betsy Ross Flag

Many years later, Francis Scott Key wrote America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He watched the American flag wave during a battle in the War of 1812 as he penned the famous words. 

If you go to Washington, DC, you can see the actual flag which was waving over Fort McHenry while the British troops attacked. You can learn more about this amazing story here.

The number of stars and stripes on the flag quickly increased as more states entered the Union. It soon became too many to keep up with on the fast-changing flag! In 1818 Congress resolved to keep the alternating stripes at 13 to represent the original first colonies. Then each state would have a star added as it joined the Union.

The Modern Flag

The American flag is nicknamed “Old Glory” and has flown across the nation (and world) for more than 200 years. 

United States Flag

We celebrate Flag Day on June 14 each year. President Woodrow Wilson designated it a national holiday through an official proclamation on May 30, 1916. 

Many Americans use Flag Day to keep the flag’s meaningful history alive. You can celebrate this day, too. Put up flags in your house, draw a picture of a flag, or fly one outside. See the images below for Flag Day activity ideas and links to even more American flag history information!

Graphic black stars in a row
Graphic Purchase Here US Constitution and Government Course
Graphic black stars in a row

For a list of more information and fun facts
about the American flag and its history,
visit the National Flag Foundation site.

You may also like . . .

Watercolor Illustration America the Beautiful Lyrics Blog Post
Illustrated Banner for Celebrate Constitution Day
Graphic Declaration of Independence Text

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  • What a great supplement! Thank you so much for making this readily available! The kids love it and are sharing info with friends. Mom and Dad too.

  • Thank you so much for this! We are doing the Independence day study from campfire curriculum and this will go along great as an extra to that.

  • Sandra Jones

    Love our history.

  • AJ Smith

    This is fantastic! I have seen history films during the revolutionary war and they have modern flag 🤦🏻‍♂️. More Americans need this education.

  • Tiffany

    I love this and all posts on American history and holding firm to the facts and the full history. Thank you!!