The Stars and Stripes originated as a result of a resolution adopted by the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia on June 14, 1777. The resolution read:
“Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”
The resolution gave no instruction as to how many points the stars should have, nor how the stars should be arranged on the blue union. Consequently, there were many variations. During the Revolutionary War, several patriots made flags for the new Nation. Betsy Ross is the best known of these persons, but there is no proof that she made the first Stars and Stripes.
It was not until April 4, 1818, when President Monroe accepted a bill that prescribed the basic design of the flag which would assure that the growth of the country would be properly symbolized. It required that the flag of the United States have a union of 20 stars, white on a blue field, and that upon admission of each new State one star be added to the union of the flag on the fourth of July following the date of admission. The 13 alternating red and white stripes would remain unchanged.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day on June 14, the birthday of the Stars and Stripes. It was not until 1949 that Congress made this day a permanent observance.
U.S. Flag Facts
How many stars and stripes are on the flag?
There are 50 stars representing the 50 states and there are 13 stripes representing the 13 original states.
Flag: thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 50 small white five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars; the 50 stars represent the 50 states, the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies; known as Old Glory; the design and colors have been the basis for a number of other flags including Chile, Liberia, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico
from The CIA World Factbook
When are new stars added to the flag?
A new star is added to the flag on the July 4th following the entry into the Union of the new state.
What are the specifications for the colors of the flag?
In the Pantone system the colors are: Blue PMS 281 and Red PMS 193.
Who made the first flag and when?
Betsy Ross, made the first flag. Information on Betsy Ross, the history of the flag and on flag etiquette may be found at the Betsy Ross Home Page maintained by the Independence Hall Association of Philadelphia.
Any other questions?
The Flag of the United States includes the history of the flag, graphics of historic and current flags and an invaluable collection of flag FAQs.
Our Flag: Frequently Asked Questions provided by The American Legion, the world’s largest veterans’ organization.
Star Spangled Manners: neat graphical representations of how to hang and display the flag, courtesy of the U.S. Navy
The Star Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem @ The Smithsonian site