• Old Glory: The Story of Our Flag

    Schools, government buildings, libraries, churches, and even many homes display our flag, especially on patriotic holidays like the 4th of July, but have you ever wondered how we got the flag? “Old Glory” is one of the oldest symbols of our country, but she wasn’t the first flag.

    Old Glory, also known as The Stars and Stripes, is a reminder that we are free to work, play, worship, and speak as we wish. We can elect our own leaders, rather than being ruled by a king or queen. The flag is also a reminder of the thousands of people who sacrificed their homes, their time, their money, and even their lives for freedom.

    Famous American Monuments - Image for Flag of USA
    Old Glory – Image for Flag of USA

    Fun Facts

    • The early colonists displayed Union Jack, the British flag, which is blue with a red cross and a white cross. In 1775, the colonists decided to make a new flag. They wanted to express their frustration with British taxes and laws, but they also wanted to show some loyalty to the Crown. The Grand Union flag had red and white stripes. In the upper left-hand corner was a small Union Jack.
    • In 1777, the colonists decided that they needed a completely new flag. They chose one stripe for each of the thirteen colonies. They added stars to symbolize a new “constellation,” or new government in which people could be free to make their own laws.
    • The first flags varied. On some flags, the stars were placed in a circle; on other flags, they were scattered or placed in a line.
    • The story goes that Betsy Ross helped design the first flag. We know that she sewed American flags, but we’re not sure if she designed the very first one.
    • In 1817, as new states were joining the Union, Congress decided to add a star for each new state. During the Civil War, eleven states left the Union. Some people wanted the stars representing those states to be removed. Abraham Lincoln refused, insisting that those stars remain on the flag. He was determined to reunite the country and he succeeded. 
    • Every day children recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which was written by Francis Bellamy. In 1892, 400 years after Christopher Columbus landed in America, 12 million children pledged allegiance for the first time.  

    Vocabulary

    1.  Allegiance: loyalty
    2.  Constellation: a cluster of stars; can also be a group of related things
    3. Reunite: join together again

    Questions and Answers

    Question:  What is the correct way to handle the flag?

    Answer:  While there is no punishment for mistreating the flag, the National Flag Code, established in 1923, helps us understand how to treat the flag with respect. It says that the flag should never touch the floor or ground. It should fly at night only if it is lit. Only weatherproof flags should fly outdoors in bad weather. The flag should be raised quickly and lowered slowly.

    Flags are flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning. Raising a flag upside down indicates distress. The flag is only flown this way in times of dire emergency. A flag is draped over the casket of a soldier or government member. The stars are placed over the top part of the casket, near the person’s heart. 

    Learn More

    Visit PBS to learn more about the flag.

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