“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 Flag Resolution of 1777
Whether you’re standing at attention facing the U.S. flag with your right hand over your heart reciting, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America…” or patriotically singing along to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” pledging your loyalty to the USA commonly goes hand in hand with pledging your allegiance to the American flag too.
The U.S. flag, also known as Old Glory, the Star-Spangled Banner, or simply the Stars and Stripes, has been an important national symbol of respect, honor, freedom, and patriotism since its official birth on June 14, 1777. However, what do its stars and stripes, and red, white, and blue mean?
U.S. flag color meaning: red, white, and blue
Let’s go back a few hundred years. Before there was the U.S. flag that we know today, there was the Grand Union Flag, the first national flag of the United States (also known as Continental Colors, the Congress Flag, and the Cambridge Flag, used from 1775-1777). Like the current U.S. flag, it also had 13 red and white stripes. However, in the upper inner corner, or canton, of the flag there was a red, white, and blue British Union Flag instead of stars.
When designing the new, official U.S. flag, the red, white, and blue were borrowed from the Grand Union Flag. However, the three colors did not actually have any meaning until the design of the Great Seal of the United States from 1776 to 1782.
Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, said of the Great Seal’s symbolism, “White signifies purity and innocence; Red, hardiness & valor; and Blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.” From that day, the meaning stuck and was applied to both the Great Seal and the American flag. Even today, there is no official assignment of meaning to the colors of the flag. However, Thomson’s words have carried on in custom and tradition.
Stars & stripes forever
What about the stars and stripes? The 50 white stars (50 since July 4, 1960) stand for the 50 states of the union. And the seven red and six white horizontal stripes, or pales, represent the original 13 states, or British colonies.
Plus, according to the House of Representatives’ 1977 book about the flag, “The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.”
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Now that you’ve brushed up on your flag history, learn how to display the American flag on your car or motorcycle! And remember, don’t go without car insurance—get going with Direct! Call, click, or come in for your free, no-obligation quote.
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