10 flag facts you might not know
You know the 13 stripes represent the original colonies. You know the 50 stars represent the states. You were taught in elementary school that Betsy Ross was the original creator...But here's a handful of facts about Old Glory that you might not know.
1. Betsy Ross might not have even designed it.
We're not gonna pull any punches with this list, and this first one might hit you in the gut. In a twist of history hearsay that rivals that of the William Shakespeare conspiracy—it turns out Betsy Ross might not have designed the fledgling flag. That's right, while Betsy Ross was a prolific seamstress, there is no empirical evidence that supports the notion that she was responsible for the original American flag. In fact, according to the records, her name isn't mentioned alongside the flag until 1876 (100 years after the foundation of the U.S.). Oh, and these "records" were from her grandson, by the way. So Betsy Ross was most likely not the original creator. She has a pretty catchy name though.
2. The 1st flag was commissioned for "three strings of wampum."
"Three strings of wampum (cylindrical beads and shells strung together)" were promised to Congress to expedite the creation and design of the flag. Thomas Green pushed forth this commission so that he would have a flag while traversing dangerous territory.
3. The current flag was designed by a high school student.
When Alaska and Hawaii joined the USA to make 50 states, President Dwight D. Eisenhower received thousands of (probably unsolicited) ideas for an updated flag design. One from the bunch was selected as the perfect subtle move forward to a 50-star flag. The chosen design was made by Robert G. Heft, a 17-year-old who made the flag for a design project.
4. ...And that kid got a -B for his project.
In a move that solidifies the nationwide notion that teachers simply throw a dart at a board to come up with grades—Heft got a -B for his project. Why the minus? Why a B? Why not just give the kid an A? What did the teacher want from him— an American flag remix? At any rate, Heft showed his teacher that his design was chosen as the new American flag design, and (in a move that solidifies the neo-nationwide notion that you can simply whine to a teacher and get a grade raise) Heft was given an A upon further review.
5. "Old Glory" was actually the nickname of one particular flag.
"Old Glory" was actually the name of one American flag owned by sea captain William Driver. Nobody knows exactly why he gave his flag the name "Old Glory," but I would wager it was because he liked the name. He hung it on his ship's mast, then in front of his house, and then (just like people calling the Dallas Cowboys "America's Team") it caught on arbitrarily.
6. The flag that inspired the "Star Spangled Banner" still exists.
The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key, in 1812 at Ft. McHenry. Scott Key wrote the song in honor of one resilient 15-star, 15-striped, flag he saw "banner yet wave." That flag is still on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
7. If we add a 51st state, the flag can't be updated until Independence Day.
The United States Flag Code reads as follows: "On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission." So, on the off-chance that we pick up another state officially, it will have to wait until the next time we break out the fireworks and hot dogs for a proper welcome.
8. The Pledge of Allegiance was basically invented as a way to sell more flags.
Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist minister, wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance (without the "under God" that was tossed in in 1954 during the Red Scare) for an 1892 issue of The Youth's Companion. The publication offered flags to subscribers, and Bellamy and the Youth Companion lobbied American schools to use his newly penned Pledge of Allegiance as a show of "patriotism." Don't get any more "traditionally American" than that.
9. The colors of the flag have (retroactively decided) meanings.
The red symbolizes hardiness and valor. The white symbolizes purity and innocence. The blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. These colors were not attributed to their respective vague platitudes until 1782, when Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson pulled the reasoning out of his crack like a day-late book report for "The Great Gatsby" talking about how the green light represents "jealousy."
10. Neil Armstrong's flag fell over.
Of the six flags on the moon: all are American, 5 are standing, and one fell over. The singular fallen flag was the first flag ever placed on the moon. Or, as mouth breathing moon-landing deniers would say, Stanley Kubrick directed it to fall.
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