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The Evolution of the American Flag (1776-2014)



Since 1777 the American Flag, also known as “Old Glory”, has been a symbol of strength and unity for the United States of America. Throughout its 237 years of existence the American Flag has been officially modified 26 times for various reasons.

These modifications have never changed the sense of pride and solidarity that Old Glory has always provided for the citizens of the United States. The American Flag is an icon of our Nation and every version of the American Flag shares an important part of our nation’s history. The timeline below displays the evolution of Old Glory and explains the history behind each modification.


The Betsy Ross Flag (May 1776)

Although it is not a proven factual event, legend has it that Betsy Ross sewed the first American Flag from a pencil sketch drawn by George Washington. While it is true that Ross was an acquaintance of George Washington and sewed many American flags throughout her life, there is no evidence to support the claims of her descendants that she did in fact create the first American Flag at the request of George Washington.

The Original 13 Star American Flag (1777-1795)

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed The Flag Resolution which stated: “It is resolved that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternated red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” For this reason, we now celebrate Flag Day (link to Flag Flying Holidays page?) on every June 14th.

This official original American Flag had 13 stripes and 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies which included: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.

15 Star Flag – Star Spangled Banner (1795-1818)

In 1794, the Flag Act authorized a new 15-star and 15-stripe flag. This regulation went into effect on May 1st, 1795, and the Star Spangled Banner became the new official flag of the United States. The two additional stars and stripes were added to the original design in order to represent the admission of Vermont (1791) and Kentucky (1792).

This particular edition of the American Flag is known as the Star Spangled Banner because it was the actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry and served as the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s song that would become the national anthem, “Star Spangled Banner”, of The United States of America.

20 Star American Flag (1818-1819)

The Act of April 4th, 1818 enacted a new policy that provided for a constant of 13 stripes on all American Flags and one star for each state. The act stated that the flag would be officially modified on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state.

This edition of the flag added five new stars for the admission of the new states including: Tennessee (1796), Ohio (1803), Louisiana (1812), Indiana (1816), and Mississippi (1817).

21 Star American Flag (1819-1820)

This 21-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1819.

A star was added for the state of Illinois, which was admitted to the United States of American on December 3rd, 1818.

23 Star American Flag (1820-1822)

This 23-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1820.

Two stars were added for the admission of Alabama (1819) and Maine (1820) to the United States of American.

24 Star American Flag (1822-1836)

This 24-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1822.

A star was added for the state of Missouri, which was admitted to the United States of American on August 10th, 1821.

25 Star American Flag (1836-1837)

This 25-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1836.

A star was added for the state of Arkansas, which was admitted to the United States of American on June 15th, 1836.

26 Star American Flag (1837-1845)

This 26-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1837.

A star was added for the state of Michigan, which was admitted to the United States of American on January 26th, 1837.

27 Star American Flag (1845-1846)

This 27-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1845.

A star was added for the state of Florida, which was admitted to the United States of American on March 3rd, 1845.

28 Star American Flag (1846-1847)

This 28-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1846.

A star was added for the state of Texas, which was admitted to the United States of American on December 29th, 1845.

29 Star American Flag (1847-1848)

This 29-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1847.

A star was added for the state of Iowa, which was admitted to the United States of American on December 28th, 1846.

30 Star American Flag (1848-1851)

This 30-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1848.

A star was added for the state of Wisconsin, which was admitted to the United States of American on May 29th, 1848.

31 Star American Flag (1851-1858)

This 31-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1851.

A star was added for the state of California, which was admitted to the United States of American on September 9th, 1850.

32 Star American Flag (1858-1859)

This 32-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1858.

A star was added for the state of Minnesota, which was admitted to the United States of American on May 11th, 1858.

33 Star American Flag (1859-1861)

This 33-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1859.

A star was added for the state of Oregon, which was admitted to the United States of American on February 14th, 1859.

34 Star American Flag – Civil War Union Flag (1861-1863)

This 34-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1861. A star was added for the state of Kansas, which was admitted to the United States of American on January 29th, 1861.

This was the flag that was flown by armies of the North during the first half of the Civil War. The flag had 34 stars to represent all of the country’s states, even those that were attempting to secede from the union.

35 Star American Flag (1863-1865)

This 34-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1863.

A star was added for the state of West Virginia, which separated from the rest of Virginia (a confederate state) on June 20th, 1863 in order to rejoin the union.

36 Star American Flag (1865-1867)

This 36-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1865.

A star was added for the state of Nevada, which was admitted to the United States of American on October 31st, 1864.

37 Star American Flag (1867-1877)

This 37-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1867.

A star was added for the state of Nebraska, which was admitted to the United States of American on March 1st, 1867.

38 Star American Flag (1877-1890)

This 38-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1877.

A star was added for the state of Colorado, which was admitted to the United States of American on August 1st, 1876.

43 Star American Flag (1890-1891)

This 43-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1890.

Five stars were added for the admission of North Dakota (1889), South Dakota (1889), Montana (1889), Washington (1889), Washington (1889), and Idaho (1890).

44 Star American Flag (1891-1896)

This 44-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1891.

A star was added for the state of Wyoming, which was admitted to the United States of American on July 10th, 1890.

45 Star American Flag (1896-1908)

This 45-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1896.

A star was added for the state of Utah, which was admitted to the United States of American on January 4th, 1896.

46 Star American Flag (1908-1912)

This 46-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1908.

A star was added for the state of Oklahoma, which was admitted to the United States of American on November 16th, 1907.

48 Star American Flag (1912-1959)

This 48-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1912.

Two stars were added for the admission of New Mexico (1912) and Arizona (1912) to the United States of American.

49 Star American Flag (1959-1960)

This 49-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1959.

A star was added for the state of Alaska, which was admitted to the United States of American on January 3rd, 1959.

50 Star American Flag (1960-Present)

This 50-star flag became the official American Flag on July 4th, 1960.

A star was added for the state of Hawaii, which was admitted to the United States of American on August 21st, 1959.