John Ellis, a local historian and member of Matthews American Legion Post 235, and other veterans organizations made an informative presentation in a meeting lounge filled with senior citizens at the Willow Grove Senior Community facility located in Matthews, North Carolina.
For more than 240 years, the American flag has remained a symbol of our nation’s strength, pride and inspiration for millions of our citizens. Also, for many of our allies around the globe who believe in freedom, and what we stand for as a sovereign nation.
Mr. Ellis presented a number of design changes that our American flag experienced and endured in this nation’s infancy from the 1770’s through the 1790’s.
On January 1, 1776, the Continental Army was reorganized in accordance with a Congressional resolution to place American forces under George Washington’s control. On this particular New Year’s Day the Continental Army surrounded Boston to lay siege upon Boston when the British had taken over the city. General Washington had ordered the Grand Union flag be hoisted above his headquarters base at Prospect Hill. The flag had 13 alternate red and white stripes and the British Union Jack in the upper left hand corner.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act establishing an official flag of the new nation. The flag would consist of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, the union thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.
Between 1777-1960, Congress would pass several acts that changed the shape, design and arrangement of our flag, and allowed the additional stars and stripes to be added to the flag to reflect the admission of each new state brought into the Union.
Some important historical dates include the following list.
- Act of January 13, 1794, provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.
- Act of April 4, 1818, provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, added to the flag effective the fourth of July following the admission of each new state by President Monroe.
- President Taft on June 24, 1912, made an executive order to establish proportions of the flag, and provided for an arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of each eight, a single point of each start to be upward.
- President Eisenhower, issued an executive order dated January 3, 1959, providing for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.
- President Eisenhower, issued a second executive order dated August 21, 1959, which provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizontally, and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.
Today the flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white. The stripes represent the original thirteen colonies, and the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well, red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
The history of our nation’s flag is as fascinating and interesting as the story of the birth and growth of the American Republic itself. It has survived brutal battles, inspired songs and has evolved over two centuries. We should be proud and respect our flag, it’s heritage, history, and sacrifices made by our ancestors, fathers, sons, daughters, and other family members to defend the freedoms we all enjoy today.