US flag with 30 stars by Hellerick

The current 30 Star Flag of the United States

The National Flag of the United States of America is a flag of thirteen horizontal alternating red and white bars, with a blue canton in the top left corner (known as the Union) with thirty small white stars arranged in five rows of six. The stars represent the thirty states that make up the United States, while the thirteen stripes represent the original thirteen colonies. It is also known by the nicknames of "Old Glory", "The Stars and Stripes", "The Star Spangled Banner" (also the name of the National Anthem) and "The Union", especially after the break-away of the Confederate States of America in 1862. For the full list and picture of the flags used by the US, please see this page.


Grand Union Flag

The "Grand Union"/"Continental Colors" Flag (1775)

The first US Flag was an unofficial banner flown during the American Revolution, consisting of thirteen bars like the modern flag, but with a British Union Jack in the Left where the Stars would be, and was known as the "Continental Colors", or the "Grand Union" Flag. As the original colonists still considered themselves British subjects even while they were revolting against the crown, this was not seen as contradictory in any terms. This flag was also very similar to the British East India Company's flag of the time, although this one could have from nine to 13 stripes.
Cowpens Flag

"Cowpens" Flag (1777)

By the end of the Revolution, it became clear that America was going to establish their own nation, so a redesign of the flag was necessary. Many different military units used different flags, although most had the red, white and blue color pattern (or any combination thereof), with stars and stripes. The Continental Congress did not officially designate a certain flag, and multiple different styles, most hand made, were used. While the thirteen stripes were similar on all, the Stars were arranged according to the designers preference: the "Betty Ross" flag had 13 stars in a circle, while the "Cowpens" flag had 12 stars in a circle, with a thirteenth in the center, and the "Francis Hopkinson" flag with six pointed stars arranged in rows of 3/2/3/2/3, and this flag is considered the "First" official flag, as Hopkinson was a member of Congress, and submitted the design to the body to be accepted with the Flag Resolution of 1777, although different versions would continue to exist there after.
Flag of the United States (1777-1795)

The "Betty Ross" Flag(1777)

In the 1790s, as Vermont and Kentucky entered the union, the flag was updated with 15 stars and stripes. With the acceptance of Tennessee in 1792, however, it became clear that a star and strip per state would quickly "clutter" the flag, so the number of stripes was reduced to 13 with the first Flag Act (1793), and the 13 stripe flag was made official, with a new star to be added for every state. However, no specific design was named, so the well-known "circle" flags continued to be used. Ohio (1803) brought the number of stars to 17, and that flag, with 13 stripes, was the one that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star Spangled Banner" during the Siege of Baltimore in the First American War.

US flag with 17 stars by Hellerick

The "Star Spangled Banner" that inspired Francis Scott Key, and was again used after the War of Confederate Independence

After the war, it took until 1820 for the next revision of the flag, to reflect the entrance of Illinois (1818) and Maine (1820), and now 19 stars. A 20 star flag was created in 1821 with the entrance of Missouri, and now this flag law laid out the rules for the US flag: namely that the stars should only be displayed in rows, with the number of stars per row to be announced by the President via Executive Order. Only Congress maintained the right to completely change the flag, however. The introduction of Florida, Michigan and Indiana (1837), Louisiana and Mississippi (1840), Arkansas (1841), Wisconsin (1842), Texas, Iowa (1847) and West Virginia (1852) had no problems entering the union flag wise, and raised the number to 30.

The aftermath of the War of Confederate Independence posed a delicate problem to the US Congress over the flag: was it advisable to maintain the current 30 star design, or would it be better to only have stars for the states that were now in the union? And considering that four of the original 13 states (Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia) broke away, should the stripes be reduced to only nine? Many Democrats demanded that they remain the same as they believed the Confederacy broke away unlawfully, while the Liberal Party lead by Abraham Lincoln proposed to reduce the number of stars, to put the war behind the States. Eventually, a compromise was worked out: the stripes would remain the same, to maintain continuity, while the stars would be reduced to the present number of states. This was further complicated by the union of Rhode Island and Connecticut, which reduced the stars to 17 with the new Flag act of 1864.

The number of stars once again increased with the entrance of Minnesota (1867), Nebraska (1868), Cimarron (1887), Dakota (1888), and Sequoyah (1900), bringing the number to 22 in time for the Second Global War. After the war, with the vast Oregon Territory, as well as Northern Virginia (1920) and Kentucky (1922) being annexed by the US, the number of stars once again grew: Colorado (1920), Montana (1921), Colombia (1925), Deseret (1928) and Oregon (1929) as the 29th state of the Union. After the Third Global War, California was introduced as a state only in 1954, bringing the number of states once again to 30, where it has remained to this day.

"Re-unified" Flags

US flag with 42 stars by Hellerick

The "42" Star Flag of a re-unified US and Confederacy

For many years, and even to the present, a small minority of Americans, both in the United States and the Confederacy, had advocated for a re-unification of the two nations, and had drawn up designs for a flag to represent this. Most Northerners who approach the idea create a "42 Star" flag, to add the twelve states of the modern Confederacy, while Confederate designers continuously design a mixture of the US and the CS flags.