Five Things You Didn't Know About The American Flag

On January 13, 1794, President George Washington approved a measure adding two stars and two stripes to the American flag, following the admission of Vermont and Kentucky to the union. Here are 5 surprising facts that you may not know about the flag of the United States of America...

ADVERTISEMENT

Betsy Ross Probably Didn't Design The First American Flag Although Betsy Ross is often credited as the designer of the initial American flag, there is little evidence to support that claim. The only records that support her involvement consist of affidavits from family members presented in Philadelphia to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870. Instead, many historians believe that Francis Hopkinson deserves the credit, because early journals from the Continental Congress are said to explicitly name him as the flag's designer.

The Current American Flag Was Designed By A Teenager 17-year old high school student Robert G. Heft, designed the modern American flag for his history class. Heft created the 50-star flag as part of a history project (for which he received a B-) before submitting it to Congress for consideration. In August of 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Heft's design over 1,500 other applicants and informed him of the news over the phone. (Heft's teacher also changed his grade to an A.)

ADVERTISEMENT

There Have Been 27 Official Versions Of The Flag The first official flag carried thirteen stars and thirteen stripes to represent the original thirteen colonies. The flag has changed twenty-seven times since then, including in 1794, when two additional stars and stripes were added when Vermont and Kentucky became states, resulting in a 15-stripe flag. After 1818, the number of stripes went back to thirteen, while stars were added to represent the new states. The last changes made in 1960 (see fact above) when Alaska and Hawaii became states.

The American Flag Flies At Half-Staff In The First Season Of Gilligan’s Island During the opening sequence of the first season of Gilligan’s Island, the flag appears flying at half-staff (at about 22 seconds in). Russell Johnson, the actor who played Professor Roy Hinkley in the sitcom, said it was because the filming for the pilot was completed on November 22, 1963 — the same day President Kennedy was assassinated. 

There Are Important Rules For Flying the Flag Some rules for flying the American flag include raising it quickly and lowering it slowly if it’s on a flagpole, and it cannot be displayed after dark unless illumination is provided. The flag should never be carried horizontally or used as clothing apparel. In addition, the flag should never be used for advertising purposes or impressed on disposable items such as paper plates or boxes.