Tuesday, June 9, 2009


The American FlagThe Star Spangled Banner flag has been repaired and restored and is now on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

We all learned about flags in school, so see what you remember.

1) Describe the Smithsonian's flag or, better yet, make a quick sketch of it--stars, stripes, and damage. 2) Who made the first American flag? 3) How many points on the flag's stars? 4) When were official rules first established for the appearance of the flag?

1) The tattered Smithsonian flag has 15 stars and 15 stripes (count them in the picture). One of the original stars is missing, possibly lost in the 1814 battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our national anthem. Our first flag had 13 stripes, red and white, and 13 white stars on a blue field. In 1791 and 1792, stars and stripes were added for the new states of Vermont and Kentucky. So the flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes until 1818. The rules changed after that. As more states joined the union, each flag had only 13 stripes but an added star for each new state. Since the Smithsonian flag was flown at the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, it has 15 stripes and 15 stars.

2) No one has proof. Betsy Ross was a real person, a flag-maker born in Philadelphia in 1752, but no one can prove she made the first American flag. The story was publicized in 1870 by her grandson, who told it as part of his family history.

3) Five. The rule now is five points, but early flag-makers used five-pointed, six-pointed or even seven- or eight-pointed stars.

4) There were no official rules until 1912, when President William Howard Taft signed an executive order that described the size and shape and the arrangement of the stars on an official U.S. flag.


Tanya Nichols said...

I have a question unrelated to the post but thought you can help me. I have a table that I can't find in your current 2009 book and am trying to find the origins of it. It is a table with leaves that pull out of the table marked AC and a number 116.

If you have any idea please contact me at tanya@tanyanichols.com

Anonymous said...

In regards to the missing star in answer 1., it was removed at the request of the widow of a veteran who, I believe, had fought at Fort McHenry, the battle celebrated by the Star Spangled Banner so that it could be buried with him. My source is a show a couple of years ago on, I believe, the History Channel on the flag.
David L

Darlene said...

RE: Betsy Ross
I have sat in Betsy's pew! In those days pews were enclosed for privacy and paid for by the family using them. Poor Betsy had no enclosed pew but sat behind a large pillar in the far side of the church. I believe she was real - I've know about over all my life, 75 years now.

Jeanne said...

I have an ornate bronze table mirror that was passed down in the family to me. It has a foundry number 108 on the back and I believe it was made pre 1850 in the midwest. It was reported to have been given by Brigham Young to his wife Lucinda (Bigelow) Young and from her to her sister Lovina (Bigelow)Witt who was my great great great grandmother. How can I authenticate this? Thanks

Jeanne said...

I just left a cquestion about an ornate bronze table mirror. If anyone can help me, please contact me at walkincaid@hotmail.com thanks

Val said...

anonymous is right the star was removed at the request of the soldier's widow. Betsy Ross didn't make the flag! It was made by poor forgotten Mary Pickersgill. Betsy Ross got the credit because of great promotion by her family. A Union general asked her to make it.